Blood Kills (Angelina Bonaparte #4), by Nanci Rathbun

Eight stars

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:

Honor Kills (Angelina Bonaparte #3), by Nanci Rathbun

Eight stars

I was recently handed an ARC of the latest novel in this series, but chose to take a step back to read the series that led up to its publication. Nanci Rathbun builds an interesting collection of novels built on a strong PI, Angelina Bonaparte, working to help those in need around Milwaukee, while never forgetting her roots in the Family. Bonaparte is alerted when one of the men she has been tracking turns up mentioned in an obituary. However, the body is not that of the man, nor is the case as cut and dry as she would have liked. This pulls Bonaparte into a real sleuthing mystery and forces her to come to terms with a number of truths and emotions she never wanted to surface. As the Rathbun stories get better, the series continues to grow on me. Great reading for those who loved the past novels, as well as the reader who needs a lighter crime thriller.

Angelina Bonaparte (add the ‘tay’ on the last syllable if you want to save a shin kicking) has been enjoying the new success that her work has garnered over the last while. She’s got an associate and some great clients, as well as a strong relationship with a Homicide detective. It all seems to be trucking along nicely when an obituary appears in the local paper for Hank Wagner. He’s a man she’s been trying to find for quite a while. How will Bonaparte break the news to his wife after six years since his disappearance?

After speaking to a few contacts, Bonaparte comes back with some odd revelations that do not make much sense. Cirrhosis and a body that has seen years of heavy drinking does not sound that the man who left his family one night, to the point that Bonaparte wonders if there’s been a bait and switch. Some deeper digging proves that this is not the man everyone says he is, but what does that mean for the larger case? While all this is going on, Bonaparte continues to be building her relationship and wondering if she’s finally met the man who will make her forget the ex-husband who made it a habit to step out on her.

While Bonaparte tries her best to piece it all together, she realises that she might be in over her head. A mistaken identity opens a can of worms that has secret identity all over it. Further exploration shows that the disappearance might be tied to some scandalous connections on the East Coast, ones that cannot be easily forgotten. When Bonaparte turns to her father, he reluctantly agrees to talk with her about his ‘Family’ connections and the rule of omertà. No one is safe and it will take Bonaparte every fibre of her being to get to the real truth.

Along the way, MPD makes a move that could put Bonaparte and her relationship with Detective W. T. “Ted” Wukowski in serious jeopardy. Unwilling to lose their jobs or their love, the two must make some serious sacrifices in order to survive it all. While this is a strain neither of them want, if they can solve this case and yet not succumb to desire, it might work out in their favour at the end of the day. Rathbun is adding some needed depth to the series and just at the right moment!

I have always enjoyed the ability to binge-read a series, as it permits me a richer exploration of the plots and character development. It’s nice to be able to really get a feel for how an author sees a series progress, rather than having to wait for each instalment as it is published. While I was not entirely hooked by the debut novel that Nanci Rathbun offered readers, Angelina Bonaparte and the entire premise of this series has grown on me and I have adapted to a slight variation on the genre I have come to love over the years!

Angelina Bonaparte remains the strong protagonist who is forced to deal with a great deal yet again. While there is some decent character development throughout the piece, it is the keen focus on her back story and personal life that fills the pages of the book. A ‘Mafia Princess’ of sorts, Bonaparte must wrestle with this and the connections her father has amassed, while juggling the truths of omertà throughout the novel. There is also a strong development and forced regression in the Angie-Ted relationship, which could make things all the more interesting in the next novel, the aforementioned ARC.

Rathbun uses more of her strong secondary characters to keep the piece moving along. While the case is more a ‘hunt’ than a slow reveal of a mystery in which a number of people are potential killers, there is still a richness to the narrative that emerges throughout. The reader is able to collect a strong set of forward momentum with those given minor roles throughout, each adding their own perspective to the piece. The reoccurring cast helps the ground the piece, but there is something nice about a new set of faces at times to keep the novel on its toes.

I can admit that Nanci Rathbun’s novels are growing on me, the more I read them (another great reason to binge). It took me some time to find my pace with the middle-aged PI whose obsession with undergarments sometimes overtook the plot of the story, but it has all one together nicely. The book proved grittier and got into some of the darker parts of the Bonaparte character and a larger narrative, though there are still some saccharine parts that do not match. Not that a book needs to be cuss filled, but the dialogue sometimes comes across as a tad diluted. Rathbun shows decent writing throughout, trying to steer away from as much predictability. There’s a nice balance of short and longer chapters to whet the reader’s appetite throughout, though the pace is sure to keep the story moving along effectively. There are certainly some threads throughout the piece that were left dangling and kept me intrigued, leaving me to want to get my hands on the ARC to see how they might work themselves out. That’s the key to a strong series and Rathbun has my interest piqued!

Kudos, Madam Rathbun, for another winner. I think you may have found a fan in me, once and for all!

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

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:

Truth Kills (Angelina Bonaparte #1), by Nanci Rathbun

Seven stars

Having been granted an ARC of the fourth novel in this series, I had to take a step back and get acquainted with the characters, the author, and the nuances of the first three books. Nanci Rathbun creates an interesting debut to her series, with fiery Angelina Bonaparte in the driver’s seat. A self-proclaimed middle age woman with a penchant for snooping, Bonaparte is pulled into the middle of a murder investigation and must help clear the man’s name. Full of laugh out loud moments, this is a decent and quick read for those needing something a little lighter on their reading journey.

Angelina Bonaparte (that’s ‘tay’ as the last syllable) has lived quite the life, growing up under the watchful eye of the mafia, in which her father is a passive member. She was a good Italian girl and married before having her children. However, when her husband repeatedly stepped out on her, she kicked him to the curb and took up being a private eye. Now, she’s helping however she can, with a specialty in catching cheating husbands.

While surveilling Anthony Belloni for his wife, Bonaparte finds herself neck deep in a controversy. Belloni has been accused of killing his mistress, Elisa Moreno, which opens many cans of worms. Bonaparte’s client, the wife, begs her to take the case and work with Anthony’s attorney to clear the man’s name. Not her usual job, but Bonaparte is happy to use her skills however she can.

While she begins poking around, someone leaves her some nasty notes at the office, hinting that she ought to beg off the case or face significant trouble. This does not deter the fiery PI, who knows how to play the tough girl better than most.

Elisa Morano’s life has been anything but calm, which opens many potential avenues and suspects who surely wanted her dead. It’s up to Bonaparte not only to follow the trails that are being presented to her, but ensure someone is a more viable suspect than Anthony Belloni. However, it will mean working with a man she swore never to trust.

As I mentioned before, this is the first of the series that I am reading, permitting me to be up to speed on the series before I tackle the ARC. Nanci Rathbun’s genre is one I read often, though the writing is a little less gritty than I am used to, making this a slight challenge for me. However, the story flowed well and held my attention throughout, which is important, as I have three more novels to read.

Angelina Bonaparte is a decent protagonist who has seen a great deal over her many years. Not your typical PI, this white haired and slick woman is always up for a challenge and does not back away from a confrontation. While her backstory does enrich the novel, it is her grit and determination on the streets that is sure to engage the reader. I look forward to more development from the subsequent novels, as Rathbun has left a great deal for the reader to enjoy throughout this piece.

The collection of secondary characters is strong and varied, something that helps the book stay float throughout. While the mob angle is nothing new, Rathbun focuses her attention on a number of areas that mesh nicely and create a strong story. Having characters to prop things up makes for a great read and kept me eager to continue with the story until the very end. I am eager to see how many will be recurring and which characters offered their one-off in this piece.

Getting t the heart of the matter, the story as a whole, I am of mixed sentiments. I enjoyed the flow of the piece and the pace of the action, though something about it left me wanting more action and a deeper connection to the story. It could be that I had to space things out over a number of days because of work, but I did not leave with as strong a connection to the story or Bonaparte as I might have liked. The writing was decent, even if there were some predictable moments, and the mixed chapter lengths strung me along so that I was not tapping my toe to be able to put it down. Still, there was something that left me needing more, a means of getting deeper. I will stick with the series, as it was a pleasant book to have on audio, but I can only hope that debut novel jitters will pass and the reader can get to the heart of the matter.

Kudos, Madam Rathbun, for a good start to an intriguing series. Let’s see where Angelina Bonaparte takes us next.

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