Cash Kills (Angelina Bonaparte #2), by Nanci Rathbun

Seven stars

When I was handed an ARC of the fourth novel in this series, I took a step back to discover the characters, the author, and the specifics of the collection. Nanci Rathbun continues to build an interesting collection of novels, with Angelina Bonaparte front and centre in this second piece of the series. A middle-aged woman with a spark for life and love of uncovering truths, Bonaparte is once again pulled into the centre of a curious case, this time involving a massive inheritance from a couple who appeared barely able to rub two coins together. When looking a little deeper, there is an entire organisation propping them up, which begs the question as to who they were and what they believed. Toss in some murder and you have the perfect story to keep the reader guessing. Rathbun does a decent job yet again and will appeal to those who enjoyed her debut novel.

Angelina Bonaparte (don’t forget the ‘tay’ on the last syllable) is still basking in the limelight from her last major case, which included discovering a new beau who works on the Milwaukee PD’s Homicide Squad. She’s tending to her own business when a referral crosses her desk. A young woman, Adriana Johnson, and her lawyer ask for some help to look into the mysterious inheritance that she was supplies by her parents, who were murdered. The Johnsons ran a small shop until their demise the week before, appearing to barley make ends meet. How did they come upon such money and is it legitimate?

Bonaparte is always up for a challenge and takes the case, thinking that there could be some fun challenges within the hunt for the truth. As she explores a little more, Bonaparte learns that the Johnsons (anglicising their name) were part of the Serbian community in Milwaukee, which is not alarming on the surface. However, there is an odd net cast around some within the group, including proof that they had massive monetary investments around the state of Wisconsin and used a few innocuous players as namesakes on these accounts. Additionally, Bonaparte discovers that the Johnsons had some extremely rare and seemingly valuable items hidden away, with some Cyrillic writing affixed to them.

While poking around, Bonaparte tips her hand, perhaps a little too readily, which creates some waves. Before she knows it, Adriana’s lawyer is missing and his secretary is found with her head blown in. This is, again, outside of Bonaparte’s usual work of following cheating husbands and fraudulent insurance claims. As she does some of her own research about connections to the former Yugoslavia, Bonaparte finds herself targeted specifically, which worries and angers her beau, Detective W. T. “Ted” Wukowski.

There’s something obviously wrong here and Bonaparte is not going to stop until she discovers the truth. She’ll have to play her cards right, not only to catch a killer and bring down an organisation, but to make it through to Thanksgiving, when her family hopes to meet this dashing new man in her life. It’s a jam-packed story with little time for wondering and high on the danger for the slick Angie Bonaparte.

As I mentioned above, I am pushing through the first three books in this series in order to get to the ARC before its publication date. While Nanci Rathbun’s style is not entirely in line with what I usually read in the genre, it is still quite good and on point when I need it to be. Not quite cozy, but with hints of ‘more refined grit’, Rathbun takes the reader into some of Milwaukee’s underbelly without getting too caught up in the darkest corners of crime, as some authors are eager to do.

Angelina Bonaparte is a strong protagonist whose life has tossed her many a curveball, though she is stronger for it. She is able to balance her work with a burgeoning love interest in Wukowski, which is on full display in some saccharine moments that will make some readers roll their eyes. While she admits that her age leaves her outside the realms of ability of some PIs, Bonaparte does not shy away from conflict or getting to the heart of the matter. Her ever curious mind leads her down many a path and the large ‘Sicilian-American’ family keeps her knowing that she is loved and protected. Her many facets keep the reader curious throughout this reading journey.

The collection of secondary characters is strong and varied, particularly in the discovery of the Serbian angle throughout. Rathbun not only peppers the narrative with those who hail from the former Yugoslavia, but she uses them as vessels to help educate the reader about the history and ongoing struggles as it relates to the region’s history. Add to this, a variety of names that grace the pages of the novel and the reader is in for a real treat. There is little time to rest, as the action is ongoing and the characters propel the story forward with ease.

As with many books, I like my review to get to the heart of the matter, the story as a whole. While I was of mixed sentiments with the first novel, this piece grew a little more on me. I enjoyed its flow and pace, though the somewhat dichotomous ‘grit and saccharine’ nature of the piece left me wanting more of the former and a scaling back of the latter. I admit that this second novel worked much better for me than the series debut (perhaps because I was expecting what I got?), but I am still hungering for more. Decent writing prevailed throughout, even with some predictability. The balance of short and longer chapters left me always wanting a little more, even if some moments had me rolling my eyes. I liked how Rathbun worked the history into this novel and kept the reader educated and informed throughout. Now to see what’s next, as Angelina Bonaparte is one who attracts drama, true to her Sicilian ancestry.

Kudos, Madam Rathbun, for keeping me intrigued. Onto the last of the ‘backstory novels’, before I can sink my teeth into the real job for which you sought me out.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: