Title: Boiling Over
Series: The Caro Mysteries: Book Two
Author: Thea McAlistair
Publisher: NineStar Press
Length: 279 Pages
Category: Historical, Murder Mystery
At a Glance: The claustrophobia of a town full of nothing but the cloying scent of maple syrup, boredom, suspicion, secrets, prejudice, and gossip is used to good effect in Boiling Over. I enjoyed this book just as much for its differences in setting and tone from book one in the series as for the offbeat and sometimes despicable characters who reside in this horrible little place.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: On the run from trumped-up murder charges, Alex Dawson and his boyfriend Sev settle in a small town in Vermont on the recommendation of Sev’s mob-boss cousin Bella. Chickadee is so tiny that it has only one major employer in the depths of the Great Depression: Trask & Co. Maple Sugar Mill. It’s a quiet place. That is, until Walter Trask is found in his own maple grove with his head smashed in.
Alex doesn’t want to have anything to do with the death, but things get much more personal when Bella is falsely arrested. Determined to free her and even the scales, Alex scours the town for clues as to what really happened. He quickly learns that small towns have big secrets that people may be willing to kill for. And if that weren’t bad enough, Alex and Sev’s once-sweet relationship is turning bitter under the combined pressures of isolation, anxiety, and jealousy. Alex needs to find the true murderer quickly before Bella is turned over to the feds, or worse, Sev walks out of his life forever.
Review: Boiling Over is book two in Thea McAlistair’s Caro Mysteries series, though I wouldn’t have guessed it by that cover. Where book one, No Good Men, was very much a noir style mystery, this book reads more like a cozy, and I enjoyed it just as much for its differences in setting and tone as for the offbeat and sometimes despicable characters who reside in this horrible little town.
Alex and Sev went on the run with their young ward Pearl at the end of the last book. And for good reason. Without giving too much away, let’s just say there was death involved—and why wouldn’t there be when the Queen of Sin, Bella Ferri, is your mob boss cousin?—thus their need to flee Westwick, Connecticut, for the sleepy little backwater of Chickadee, Vermont. Posing as brothers-in-law, and Pearl as Sev’s stepdaughter, they role into town with Bella’s backing and their rather flimsy backstory, only to drive straight into a murder. Surprisingly, or perhaps not, this isn’t the first murder to have plagued little Chickadee. Nor would it be the last.
Walter Trask wasn’t what anyone would call well liked, and no one ever said that working for Bella would be a breeze, but his being bludgeoned to death opens the doors to more questions than answers. Is Walter’s murder connected to that of Leo Manco’s two years before? And who killed them? Was it the stranger who was just passing through? Did it have to do with Trask and Manco being bootleggers for Bella? Who committed the latest murder? And why does it seem like everyone in town is shady as hell? Thea McAlistair ensures that nearly any and everyone introduced could be a suspect, and Alex decides to take it upon himself to investigate when local law enforcement doesn’t seem interested in pinning Walter’s murder on anyone but Bella.
The claustrophobia of a town full of nothing but the cloying scent of maple syrup, boredom, suspicion, secrets, prejudice, and gossip is used to good effect in the story. Everyone knows everyone, and they know almost everything about one another. What they don’t know, they pass around as rumor and conjecture. Of course, Alex and Sev being the newest residents makes them the prime subject of chatter, but that doesn’t mean Alex isn’t hellbent on finding out who killed Walter or that his efforts to find the killer would come without its share of challenges and danger. Added to that, McAlistair makes sure not to ignore the complications of Alex and Sev’s relationship—both the obvious peril of their romantic connection as well as the fact that they’ve known each other for such a short amount of time. Suddenly they’re on the run, living as a cobbled together family, and Alex’s insecurities, painful memories, and fears come steamrolling in to make things so much worse.
The mystery wraps up with a motive that’s both plausible and crazy enough to have kept me guessing until the big reveal. The setup for the next book is also laid out in a way that has done nothing less than ensure I’ll be in touch with these characters just as soon as it drops. This has been a fun series to engage with. It doesn’t demand more of its readers than to sit back and enjoy the misdeeds and mischief as they unfold, and there’s some comfort in its familiar tropes—the femme fatale gets some good mileage here. Never underestimate a woman scorned.
You can buy Boiling Over here:
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