on Feb. 8, 2016
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Also in this series: Death and the Redheaded Woman, Death and the Gravedigger's Angel
They call it “the Brewmaster’s Widow”; the abandoned brewery where Death Bogart’s brother died in an arson fire.
With his girlfriend, Wren Morgan, Death goes home to St. Louis to take on a deeply personal mystery. When Randy Bogart went into the Einstadt Brewery, he left his broken badge behind at the firehouse. So why did the coroner find one on his body? Every answer leads to more questions. Why did the phony badge have the wrong number? Who set the brewery fire? What is the connection between Randy’s death and the mysterious Cherokee Caves, where the opulent playground of 19th century beer barons falls into slow decay?
Not understanding how and why he lost his brother is breaking the ex-Marine’s heart. But the Brewmaster’s Widow is jealous of her secrets. Prising them loose could cost Death and Wren both their lives.
I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.
I enjoyed Death and the Brewmaster’s Widow as much as I did the first book in the series, despite solving the mystery before I was a third of the way through. Wonderful characters and strong writing kept me reading well into the night.
Do you remember the Columbo television series? In that show, the audience always knew who the murderer was from the very beginning. The question was never “whodunnit” but rather when and how Lt. Columbo was going to figure it out and catch the culprit. Brewmaster’s Widow had a little bit of that feel for me, except that the author doesn’t disclose the solution at the beginning, nor all at once. She does offer plenty of clues, including some given to the reader but not to Death and Wren. So I was easily able to figure out not only who but how and why, well before either Death or Wren did.
You’d think that would spoil the book for me, but it didn’t in the least. Death and Wren are interesting and sympathetic characters, and Ross writes well; she drew me into the story pretty quickly and kept my interest with vivid descriptions, engaging secondary characters, strong dialogue, and a growing element of suspense. I also learned a thing or two about St. Louis and about arson along the way.
Technically, this series falls into the cozy mystery category. There’s no gratuitous violence, no gore to speak of, no explicit sex, and it’s not dark. But it has a little more of a gritty, realistic edge to it, not in the crimes themselves but in the main characters and in the settings. Death (pronounced “Deeth”) is an ex-Marine, an Afghanistan veteran, who suffers from PTSD and severely damaged lungs. There’s a scene in the beginning of the novel where he’s at the gun range that really shows the extent to which he’s struggling with his past. And Ross’s descriptions of places are realistic rather than idealized; you can smell the hot pavement, the cold mustiness of the caves, see the run-down areas of town. On the other hand, the book is filled with plenty of lighter moments, and there were a few scenes that made me laugh out loud. (Death’s ex and the town jerk, omigosh! And Wren’s choice of concealed weapon just made me giggle — though it’s actually rather clever.)
You could jump in here, but if you haven’t read the first book, Death and the Redheaded Woman, I recommend starting there. You’ll get a better sense of the characters and the general milieu. As for me, I’m already looking forward to book three!
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- COYER Going Back To Basics (Winter 2015-2016)
- Cruisin' Thru the Cozies 2016