Review – Borrowing Death (Charlotte Brody Mystery #2) by Cathy Pegau

Reviewed by: E

Suffragette and journalist Charlotte Brody is bracing herself for her first winter in the frontier town of Cordova in the Alaska Territory. But the chilling murder of a local store owner is what really makes her blood run cold. . .

After three months in Cordova, Charlotte is getting accustomed to frontier life. She is filing articles for the local paper–including a provocative editorial against Prohibition–and enjoying a reunion with her brother Michael, the town doctor and coroner. Michael’s services are soon called upon when a fire claims the life of hardware store owner Lyle Fiske. A frontier firebug is suspected of arson, but when Michael determines Fiske was stabbed before his store was set ablaze, the town of Cordova has another murder to solve.

Her journalist’s curiosity whetted, Charlotte begins to sort through the smoldering ruins of Lyle Fiske’s life, only to discover any number of people who might have wanted him dead. As the days grow shorter, Charlotte’s investigation turns increasingly complex. She may be distant from the trappings of civilization, but untangling the motives for murder will require plumbing the very depths of Charlotte’s investigative acumen. . .
This blurb came from Goodreads

I really enjoyed last year’s Murder on the Last Frontier, my introduction to Charlotte Brody and her adventures in barely settled Alaska, so I was very happy to find out Pegau was hard at work on Borrowing Death and had submitted proposals for more Charlotte Brody Mysteries. I found the characters in Cordova colorful and distinct each with their own set of secrets and hopes for a fresh start or a different life, yet those secrets retained a lasting power which led to some interesting events.

Charlotte has mostly settled down in Cordova working full time on the local paper while penning articles for publication back east. She and Deputy Marshal James Eddington have started building a tentative relationship more focused on friendship but with a hint of attraction adding to the tension. Yet their friendship is challenged on several different levels. The two most obvious are the sometimes opposing nature of their professions and the general attitude of sheltering those who were considered “good women.” Less obvious but just as delightful to read is the tension caused by the personal secrets each are keeping from the other. One of those secrets, which I didn’t know existed, showed up and certainly made an impact! Based on how both James and Charlotte reacted I am really looking forward to future reveals and seeing how they deal with the situation(s) and their evolving relationship. Their relationship is slow to grow which I think fits them perfectly because both are wounded and they need time to heal and regain self-trust before they can trust someone else. I was moved by a line coming late in the story when James lets Charlotte know he is aware another male hurt her and that he is willing to be patient **melt**.

The last time Charlotte and James crossed investigative horns involved the death of a prostitute and the results seemed to really shake Cordovia but only temporarily. The death this time involves a local store owner and has a far more widespread impact on the town. With the wider impact came more pressure on James to solve the case and uphold the law even in regards to Charlotte’s actions as she did her own sleuthing. I might have laughed a few times as Charlotte found herself in situations she expected to get out of and had to deal with the consequences. This particular mystery made me really think about

One of the things I really enjoy about this series is how solving the mystery takes place alongside and interwoven with daily life. It allows the characters to show as multi-dimensional and to change over time instead of remaining static and only focused on “who dun it”. It was good seeing Charlotte making friends and stirring up some controversy among the society ladies as she refused to only view things from their perspective. I haven’t mentioned her relationship with her brother Michael yet because while they are growing closer together, there is still so much left unsaid between them my heart almost hurts for them. This story focuses more on Charlotte’s relationships with other people as both she and Michael are keeping busy, I think in part to avoid facing what created the gulf and in an attempt to protect each other.

In Borrowing Death, Pegau has set up some fascinating characters and their interrelationships along with commentary on the political state of things during this particular time period. I find their complexity, internal conflict, as well as their struggle against external expectations attention grabbing. The romantic tension between Charlotte and James progresses fast enough to keep me very vested and slow enough to make it believable given what has been revealed about their pasts so far. I am really looking forward to reading the next Charlotte Brody Mystery, Murder on Location.

I give Borrowing Death a B+

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