Reviewed by: E
There’s many who feel the Alaska Territory is no place for a woman on her own. But Charlotte Brody, suffragette and journalist, has never let public opinion dictate her life choices. She’s come to the frontier town of Cordova, where her brother Michael practices medicine, for the same reason many come to Alaska—to start over.
Cordova is gradually getting civilized, but the town is still rougher than Charlotte imagined. And when a local prostitute—one of the working girls her brother has been treating—is found brutally murdered, Charlotte learns firsthand how rough the frontier can be. Although the town may not consider the murder of a prostitute worthy of investigation, Charlotte’s feminist beliefs motivate her to seek justice for the woman. And there’s something else—the woman was hiding a secret, one that reminds Charlotte of her own painful past.
As Charlotte searches for answers, she soon finds her own life in danger from a cold-blooded killer desperate to keep dark secrets from seeing the light of day…
This blurb came from Goodreads.
I was introduced to Pegau’s writing one day via twitter when I was lamenting about being a mood reader and not finding anything I wanted to read. She suggested one of her recently published stories and while it looked intriguing I got distracted by the “ooh shiny” and didn’t pick it up immediately. Scrolling through tweets I had marked as a favorite (to come back to) sometime later I decided to give it a try. And I enjoyed it. So the next book she released I read that too – both were Sci-Fiction Romance. Between her writing and random conversations I decided I needed to pay closer attention to what Pegau was producing. When I found out she was writing a historical mystery set in Alaska I was curious, when I discovered it involved murder, prostitutes, and unrepentant prostitutes it went on my list of things to read.
Murder on the Last Frontier was an enjoyable read. Pegau included nicely layered nuances and highlighted some of the social struggles women and the US in general were experiencing as states were becoming ratified and people were pushing for a leveling of rights. I did manage to guess “who done it” but I still enjoyed watching Charlotte investigate and learning the motive behind the murder. I also really enjoyed discovering other secrets Cordova’s inhabitants thought they had left behind and the very slow burning potential romance.
One of the highlights in this story is the complexity of Charlotte’s relationship with her older brother Michael. They had been the best of friends and confidants but then Michael served as a doctor during the Civil War and returned forever changed with what is known today as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a result of what he saw and experienced. His move to Alaska seemed to help him heal at least according to the tone of his letters, but he was still holding back a lot of his feelings and emotions. During the time since Michael moved to Alaska, Charlotte experienced her own stressful and life changing event which she kept hidden from almost everyone as she struggled to deal with the results. Each remembered their closeness and who the other person had been before and wanted to return to that closeness while hiding not exposing any of their personal darker changes. Watching them tip-toe and dance gingerly around each other was extremely moving.
I was also very satisfied by how Pegau handle the slow developing romance between Charlotte and Deputy Eddington. Even though I love my romance it was wonderful to see the time and space for healing given to both Charlotte and Eddington. Each had been dealt a grievous emotional blow which left them hurt, reeling, and not quite trusting their own senses so having that acknowledged was extremely refreshing. Strictly romance readers might be frustrated but I would have felt cheated and separated from the story if either character was suddenly able to jump straight into a relationship.
Pegau’s Alaska really came alive for me with the colorful characters, the visual and olfactory descriptions, and the underlying emotions of ambition, uncertainty, risk, hope, desperation, and the underlying loss of a way of life. I could see the social stratification forming and followed how the stratification fed Cordova’s issues while making it more difficult to not only solve the crime but to discover the motivation.
I really enjoyed reading Murder on the Last Frontier. The same skills as a writer I enjoyed in Pegau’s SFR were evident in this completely different genre. Her story, characters, and world kept me captivated even though I correctly guessed “who done it” earlier in the story. I was very glad to see some information about the next story involving Charlotte and inhabitants of Cordova at the back of the book. I am looking forward to it as well as seeing how the characters and their relationships with each other continue to evolve.
I give Murder on the Last Frontier an A-