Are you looking for a clever murder mystery? One with a unique sense of place and enough quirky characters to make the cast of The Big Bang Theory take notice. Can you deal with a ghost as a central character? And I don’t mean a ghost in the traditional sense, one that fades in and out on a whisper and holds the same mass as the aromatic vapors of a warm chicken pot pie. Nope. This ghost comes and goes when summoned, holds conversations with a dear friend and plays an integral part in a tightly knit crime drama. If you can let yourself go long enough to enjoy the preposterousness of the ghost of a 17 year-old sworn to protect the fictional island of Stella Maris, just north of Charleston, SC, then you’re going to love Lowcountry Boil, the debut novel of Susan M. Boyer.
Elizabeth Talbot, Liz to her family and friends is a private investigator in Greenville, SC. Greenville is the practical, earnest and diligent sister city to the old-world sultriness of its shore-bound cousin, Charleston. Liz has left her family’s salt water history to make her own path in Greenville. She’s a private investigator that has partnered with her ex-husband’s brother and has made her own way in life, far from the ocean’s tides and familial opportunities. She doesn’t plan on moving home until her brother Blake, the police chief of Stella Maris, informs her that their recently deceased grandmother didn’t die from a fall but was murdered on the steps of her Lowcountry beach home. Liz doesn’t hesitate; she packs her car, stuffs her 9mm handgun into her designer handbag, plops her dog into the right seat and heads down the highway intent on bringing the murderer to justice. In no time Liz has her manicured hands full trying to juggle her brother, her ex-husband, an ex-lover, her mom’s chicken and dumplings as well as her ghostly high school friend, Colleen.
She moves into her grandmother’s house, renews old friendships and digs up more than a few juicy family secrets that at times border on the ludicrous. That is, unless you’ve lived in Charleston and heard the whispers, been privy to the tales of fraud and degeneracy and read the headlines of yet one more act of greed and corruption that has taken place just in one family. What is it about the tug and pull of salt-water tides that cause a brother to turn on a brother or a family to murder one of its own?
Mrs. Boyer has cooked up a clever mystery full of felonious real-estate developers, long festering family wounds, moonlight skinny dips and pimento cheese. It’s a simmering gumbo of a story full of spice, salt, heat and shrimp. She had me guessing, detouring for a few laughs then doubling back for another clue right until the last chapter.
Lowcountry Boil was published by Henery Press in September of 2012.