Review – Murder on Location (Charlotte Brody Mystery #3) by Cathy Pegau

Reviewed by: E

In the Alaska Territory, suffragette Charlotte Brody is a newspaper reporter in the frontier town of Cordova. She’s a woman ahead of her time living on the rugged edge of civilization—but right now the most dangerous element she faces may come from sunny California . . .

An expedition has arrived in the frigid wilderness to shoot North to Fortune—an epic motion picture featuring authentic footage of majestic peaks, vast glaciers, homesteaders, and Alaska Natives. But the film’s fortunes begin to go south as a local Native group grows angry at how they’re portrayed in the movie, fights break out, and cast and crew are beset by accidents and assaults. Finally, production is halted when the inebriated director falls into a crevasse—and dies of exposure.

Soon Michael Brody—the town coroner and Charlotte’s brother—starts to suspect that Mother Nature was not responsible for Stanley Welsh’s death. Charlotte, who’s been writing about all the Hollywood glamor, is suddenly covering a cold-blooded crime story—and as springtime storms keep the suspects snowed in, she has to make sure the truth doesn’t get buried . . .
This blurb came from Goodreads

I have found myself really enjoying my trips to historic, in a sense, Alaska and seeing the changing social mores and struggles through the eyes of Ms Charlotte Brody. A women undergoing her own very personal struggles with societal expectations, the costs of violating them, and the need to be true to herself. Over the past two stories, Charlotte has become part of Cordova to the extent that she rarely thinks about how this was supposed to be a sabbatical and has now settled in. She and her brother have regained a mostly comfortable relationship even if it is without their previous closeness as a result of separate painful experiences. Charlotte, keeping her secrets close has also grown closer to Deputy Marshal James Eddington who has his own secrets.

Pegau has kept a running thread through the Brody Mysteries which speaks to the stark differences in respect, customer service and living conditions to say the least between the Native Alaskans and the more recent settlers. Murder on Location brings this thread front and center using an on-location Hollywood movie shooting with its screenplay drawing the line between good and evil along racial boundaries instead of along human boundaries with the awareness that good and evil are human traits not racially exclusive.

Charlotte got her first taste of what would prove a challenging assignment as a reporter and result in far too many murder suspects during her initial introduction to the movie’s cast, crew, and company upon their arrival. She was referred to as “Little Lady” and witnessed the dismissal of any thought, suggestion, or comment which did not agree with the Director’s comments regardless of who voiced it. She also learned while the potential for more revenue and opportunity to Cordova and its’ surrounding area provided by the movie’s filming was welcome. Much was also not welcome. The composition of the cast and the story line was not universally welcome as it managed to both exclude and vilify an entire race.

As the story progressed, the tension within the case, crew, and company and between them and the Alaskan Natives started to flare into hotspots which only increased the pressure. As a result when the Director was discovered first missing, second dead, and third murdered, Charlotte, Michael, and James realized they had a multitude of suspects with multiple motives. While poking around, Charlotte came face to face with her own exclusion as a result of her race and not her gender. She also saw the same mistrust and separation spill over onto her ward, who didn’t fit in either world as a result of her genetic mix. I was glad to see Charlotte grow in awareness as painful as it was to read about the segregation and prejudice knowing the same battles are still being fought today.

Like always I enjoyed watching Charlotte investigate, seemingly complicating matters and endangering herself. I also got quite a kick out of the level of frustration she caused her brother and the Deputy Marshal. Yet I could also see how both the relationship between the siblings and the romantic relationship between Charlotte and James had grown over the series and each had adjusted to fit better. For fans of the slow burn romance, Charlotte and James do take another step forward, **waggles eyebrows**. I love how careful James is with Charlotte knowing she has been hurt by a man in some way in the past. I am both dreading and hoping for more disclosure about her past from Charlotte because I want them to make some permanent decisions without an invisible cloud overhead.

Murder on Location wasn’t a lighthearted read as Pegau unpacked some significant social issues still resonating today but I never once felt like I was being lectured only that there was a thread stretching through the years. Several things came to light to Charlotte herself, which I think (hope) will make a lasting impression so I can’t wait to see how they manifest. Pegau was also rather sneaky as she finished up this installment with a twist of sorts which made me laugh and think back on my initial impressions of the cast, crew, and company. All in all I was very satisfied with Murder on Location and continue to eagerly wait for more in this series. Pegau has a knack for drawing me in and working my emotions while keeping my curiosity high.

I give Murder on Location a B+

**REVIEWERS NOTE** As much as I enjoyed reading Pegau’s story, I have struggled coming up with the words I wanted to use given today’s worldwide political and social atmosphere and my reaction to it without turning into a lecture or a rant. Hopefully, I have succeeded, if not I apologize.

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