First and foremost, a large thank you to Reedsy Discovery and Nanci Rathbun for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.
Having devoured the three previous novels in this series in order to reach this ARC, I was pleased to get my hands on the latest instalment of the Angelina Bonaparte mysteries. Nanci Rathbun continues to develop a great collection of novels built on the tenacious PI Angelina Bonaparte, working around Milwaukee and helping those in need. Counting down the last days of her forced separation from a lover, Angie has ordered a special piece of art to commemorate their reunification. When she arrives to collect it, she discovers the artist’s body in his shop. One thing leads to another and his seedy past comes to light. Hired by a fellow business owner to get to the bottom of things, Angie has an eye on the likely murderer, but needs to connect the dots, as more bodies pile up. This will be one case that requires additional caution to keep her alive! A great addition to the series for fans of Rathbun’s work.
Angelina Bonaparte (add the ‘tay’ on the last syllable if you want to save a punch to the mouth) has been in agony since she and her lover, Detective W. T. “Ted” Wukowski, have been forced apart by Milwaukee PD brass. However, the days are dwindling down and she has a special treat in store for him, aside from the usually flirtatious lingerie she flaunts. While visiting a local metalsmith to collect a piece, she discovers Mick Swanson’s body. Some preliminary sleuthing provides some insight in the form of a letter from Swanson himself, pointing the finger at his own cousin.
While the murder has rattled Angie, the local business owners in the cooperative are equally jarred, worried that the recent violence will cause sales to plummet. One such owner, Debby Hill, admits that she is also Swanson’s executor and worries that she will be targeted. Angie agrees to take her on as a client and they begin to unravel the darker side to Michael (Mick) Lebedev Swanson, whose service in the Russian military opens up new and troubling facets to the investigation.
When Angie and Wukowski get an MPD reprieve on their complete separation, they are able to work together, albeit in a strained fashion, on the case. Detective Wukowski provides some added insight that Mick’s DNA was found at the scene of an Illinois politician’s murder, citing that the metalsmith was actually involved in the Bratva, the Russian Mob. Realising that she will make no headway with her paramour, Angie is forced to take matters into her own hands.
More bodies pile up and Swanson’s own attorney is attacked, with the probate documents stolen. Whatever Swanson has on his cousin must be significant and rests primarily on their time in the Russian Army during the invasion of Chechnya. Angie discovers that there is some family history here that could be playing into the larger motive for murder, but worries that it will all be erased before she can get to the bottom of things. Racing against time and tossing caution into the wind, PI Bonaparte will have to take some risks to bring the truth out, much to the chagrin of hard-headed Detective Wukowski. Will there be a romantic reconnection after all?
I enjoy binge-reading a series, as it permits me to explore the plots and character development on a deeper level. When handed this ARC, I chose not to dive right in, but rather get an understanding of the series and all that Rathbun had done to date. I am pleased that I did, as it permitted me to connect better with Angelina Bonaparte, though I admit it took a while. While I was not entirely hooked by the debut novel that Nanci Rathbun offered readers, Angelina Bonaparte‘s unique approach did eventually sink in for me, giving me a deeper appreciation of her style and I was rather excited to get my hands on this novel.
Angelina Bonaparte stays the course as a strong protagonist, forced to take on a great deal yet again. While there are some moments of familial backstory peppered throughout, the main focus appears to be character development, both professional and personal. Bonaparte is a risk taker, but she appears to ground most of her actions on fact-finding and strong sleuthing. Pulled into the case, she uses many of her connections in the field to reveal truths, though her stubbornness does sometimes lead to some hot water moments. Flirty and focussed on rekindling her love affair, she has her moments of cringe-worthy saccharine one-liners, but those are par for the course.
Rathbun continues with a strong collection of secondary characters, many of whom she admits come from people she actually knows. Those who grace the pages of the book help push the story forward and keep the reader entertained throughout. While there are always criminal elements in the novels, much of the plot development comes from understanding various angles these seemingly minor characters provide the story, only adding to the greatness of the overall piece. Rathbun has some recurring characters and a bunch of new faces, keeping the reader intrigued while learning what’s going on as well.
I can finally admit that Nanci Rathbun’s novels are growing on me. While it took me some time to find my niche, trying to wrap my head around this middle-aged PI‘s obsession with undergarments, the fact that there is a strong thriller is not lost on me. The book added some grit and looked again into some recent history to add a depth and flavour to the plot, while keeping the action coming in each chapter. Rathbun’s writing is engaging throughout, usually able to steer away from predictability, though there is an undertone of slight hokines, which works in this regard. There’s a decent balance of short and longer chapters to whet the reader’s appetite throughout, with wondering pacing. I enjoyed the mix of backstory from previous novels and the newness of this mystery, a great balance that is sure to keep the reader wondering what’s to come. While it was an advantage to binge the series, I know I will have to wait for a while now to see if Angelina Bonaparte is back with more Milwaukee fun!
Kudos, Madam Rathbun, for a winner. I am glad I took the gamble on the series and feel you have a fan in me!
A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons