Murder on Location: A Charlotte Brody Mystery

Written by Cathy Pegau
Review by Ellen Keith

This is the third in Pegau’s Charlotte Brody series, so I felt a little as though I was coming in on the middle of a movie, as I had not read the first two. No matter, though, as Charlotte is an utterly engaging character, and the setting, the Alaska Territory in the 1920s, is equally fascinating. Charlotte, a reporter (the only reporter) for the Cordova Daily Times, is covering the arrival of movie people from California. They’ve come for the on-location shooting of the film North to Fortune, and their welcome isn’t the warmest from the native Alaskans, who have issues with their portrayal in the film. As is the way with movie sets, a whole host of suspects are gathered together to film on a glacier when the film’s director, Stanley Walsh, is found dead in a crevasse. Charlotte’s brother Michael is the town coroner, and the verdict is murder rather than misadventure.

Pegau captures the rough-and-tumble aspect of the Alaska Territory, where liquor was outlawed, but for a wink and a fee you could join a club that looked the other way. Charlotte is the guardian of a half-Alaskan teenage girl and best friends with a woman who runs a brothel. And, in a nod to fans of the show Northern Exposure, there are two characters named Cicely and Roslyn. This is one of those books where character outweighs plot. I wasn’t as interested in who murdered Stanley Walsh as I was in daily life in Cordova, where Charlotte is dating the deputy and gets birth control from Brigit, the brothel owner. It’s not that Cordova is lawless; it just runs by its own rules, and Pegau makes that world very appealing.