REVIEW: Murder on Location by Cathy Pegau
In the Alaska Territory, suffragette Charlotte Brody is a newspaper reporter in the frontier town of Cordova. She’s a woman ahead of her time living on the rugged edge of civilization—but right now the most dangerous element she faces may come from sunny California . . .
An expedition has arrived in the frigid wilderness to shoot North to Fortune—an epic motion picture featuring authentic footage of majestic peaks, vast glaciers, homesteaders, and Alaska Natives. But the film’s fortunes begin to go south as a local Native group grows angry at how they’re portrayed in the movie, fights break out, and cast and crew are beset by accidents and assaults. Finally, production is halted when the inebriated director falls into a crevasse—and dies of exposure.
Soon Michael Brody—the town coroner and Charlotte’s brother—starts to suspect that Mother Nature was not responsible for Stanley Welsh’s death. Charlotte, who’s been writing about all the Hollywood glamor, is suddenly covering a cold-blooded crime story—and as springtime storms keep the suspects snowed in, she has to make sure the truth doesn’t get buried . . .
Dear Ms. Pegau,
It’s time to catch up on the newest “Charlotte Brody” mystery. This time she’s up to her neck in covering the arrival of the movie crew for the Hollywood film being shot on location in Cordova. Everyone is gaga for the stars although Charlotte doesn’t see the need to elevate mere actors to such social heights. She is interested in the roles that women are playing behind the camera which reminded me a bit of a documentary I just watched called “The Lost Garden” about pioneering French filmmaker Alice Guy-Blaché.
Charlotte is settling in after being in Alaska for six months but is still seen by Cordovans as a newcomer. As such she notices the conflict between the movie people and the Native Americans over their portrayal in film: Noble Savages, savages or simplistic children being saved by whites. With her boss laid up due to a broken leg, media coverage will be done by Charlotte who bristles at some faint hints to “don’t rock the boat.” Initial impressions of one big happy film family to the contrary, after the film’s director is found dead, cracks begin to develop in the façade revealing possible motivations for murder. Love, money, revenge – yeah, all the usual suspects.
I enjoyed Charlotte and James’s slowly evolving relationship. The friendship between Charlotte and Rebecca, a mixed race teenager staying with Charlotte, is growing into kind of a sisterly, journalistic mentoring. Much time is spent setting up the possible suspects and their motives. There are many maybes but, just by the nature of the crime scene, few real contenders. Still Charlotte and James don’t rule anyone out.
Parts of the plot focusing on the tensions between the Native and white populations pick up where issues in book two left off but this one can still stand on its own. Charlotte walks a delicate line not only because she’s white but also because she’s a relative newcomer and thus not up to speed on the history of the situation. The main thing as far as Charlotte is concerned is that her friendship and “guardianship” of Rebecca isn’t negatively impacted.
The i.d. of the killer wasn’t too much of a surprise and a little villain exposition goes a long way in reinforcing the reasoning behind the crime. It had been one of the things considered by both Charlotte and James so I wasn’t left with a feeling of “where did that come from?”
Some wrap up scenes lay the foundation for more articles from Charlotte, a wary relationship with a local politician and perhaps some small to medium sized stones on the dating path with James so I’m sure we’ll see more of intrepid and outspoken Charlotte. B-