Read 04 Lowcountry Bordello Online

Authors: Susan M. Boyer

Tags: #Cozy Mystery, #mystery books, #female detective, #detective novels, #murder mysteries, #murder mystery books, #english mysteries, #murder mystery series, #women sleuths, #private investigator series, #british cozy mysteries

04 Lowcountry Bordello

BOOK: 04 Lowcountry Bordello
6.83Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Praise for the Liz Talbot Mystery Series




“The authentically Southern Boyer writes with heart, insight, and a deep understanding of human nature.”

– Hank Phillippi Ryan,

Agatha Award-Winning Author of
What You See


“An exciting, humorous mystery…authentically Southern. I absolutely love reading about my hometown and have been known to go check out a location to see if she got it right—she always does!”

– Martha Thomas Rudisill,

Artist and 11th Generation Charlestonian


“Southern family eccentricities and manners, a very strongly plotted mystery, and a heroine who must balance her nuptials with a murder investigation ensure that readers will be vastly entertained by this funny and compelling mystery.”

– Kings River Life Magazine




“Has everything you could want in a traditional. I enjoyed every minute of it.”

– Charlaine Harris,

New York Times
Bestselling Author of
Day Shift


“Like the other Lowcountry mysteries, there’s tons of humor here, but in
Lowcountry Boneyard
there’s a dash of darkness, too. A fun and surprisingly thought-provoking read.”

Mystery Scene Magazine


“The local foods sound scrumptious and the locale descriptions entice us to be tourists...the PI detail is as convincing as Grafton.”

Fresh Fiction




“Boyer delivers big time with a witty mystery that is fun, radiant, and impossible to put down. I love this book!”

– Darynda Jones,

New York Times
Bestselling Author


Lowcountry Bombshell
is that rare combination of suspense, humor, seduction, and mayhem, an absolute must-read not only for mystery enthusiasts but for anyone who loves a fast-paced, well-written story.”

– Cassandra King,

Author of
The Same Sweet Girls


“A complicated story that’s rich and juicy with plenty of twists and turns. It has lots of peril and romance—something for every cozy mystery fan.”

New York Journal of Books




“Imaginative, empathetic, genuine, and fun,
Lowcountry Boil
is a lowcountry delight.”

– Carolyn Hart,

Author of
What the Cat Saw


Lowcountry Boil
pulls the reader in like the draw of a riptide with a keeps-you-guessing mystery full of romance, family intrigue, and the smell of salt marsh on the Charleston coast.”

– Cathy Pickens,

Author of the
Southern Fried
Charleston Mysteries


“Plenty of secrets, long-simmering feuds, and greedy ventures make for a captivating read…Boyer’s chick lit PI debut charmingly showcases South Carolina island culture.”

Library Journal

Books in the Liz Talbot Mystery Series

by Susan M. Boyer







(Spring 2016)

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A Liz Talbot Mystery

Part of the Henery Press Mystery Collection


First Edition

Kindle edition | November 2015


Henery Press


All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever, including Internet usage, without written permission from Henery Press, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. 


Copyright © 2015 by Susan M. Boyer

Author photograph by Phil Hyman Photography


This is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. Related subjects include: women sleuths, murder mystery series, whodunit mysteries (whodunnit), humorous murder mysteries, book club recommendations, private investigator mystery series, Southern humor, Southern living.


ISBN-13: 978-1-943390-19-9


Printed in the United States of America



For my son,

Brandon Thomas Washington,

with much love

and gratitude for all the joy you brought with you into my life.

I could’ve done without the premature grey hair.



I’m deeply grateful to each and every reader who has connected with Liz Talbot and her sprawling network of family, friends, and clients. If you’ve recommended the books to a friend or your book club, I’m forever in your debt. If you are a bookseller who stocks the Liz Talbot Mysteries and recommends them to your customers, please let me know if you ever need a kidney. 


To Jim Boyer, my wonderful husband, best friend, and fiercest advocate, thank you could never cover it; nevertheless, thank you for everything you do to help me live my dream.


To everyone at Henery Press—Kendel Lynn, Art Molinares, Erin George, Rachel Jackson, Anna Davis, and Stephanie Chontos, this book is better because of all of you. Thank you for all you do. I count myself as very fortunate to be a Henery Press author, and cherish the friendship of the other authors in the Hen House.


For everything, always, heartfelt thanks to the fabulous Hank Phillippi Ryan.


To my dear friends Martha and Mary Rudisill, eleventh and twelfth-generation Charlestonians, respectively, thank you for your continued enthusiastic assistance.


To my cousin, Linda Ketner, thank you for answering a million questions, and for the use of your former home in this book.


Thank you, Annalise and Jack Simmons, for lending me your bed and breakfast and answering my questions when I called out of the blue, even though you suspected I might be crazy.


Special thanks to all the members of Books & Wine with Wendi, a book club near and dear to my heart. The following members guest star in this book: Dana Clark, Wendi Hill, Amber McDonald, Lori Stowe, and Heather Wilder. None of these wonderful young women have ever worked in a bordello to the best of my knowledge.


To Ginger and Rut Jacks, thank you for a wonderful evening and for sharing such fabulous fodder. I hope you enjoy what I did with it.


As always, unending thanks to Kathie Bennett, Susan Zurenda, Rowe Copeland, and Liz Bemis. I have no idea what I’d do without y’all.


Thank you Jill Hendrix, owner of Fiction Addiction bookstore, for your continued advice and support.


I’m terrified I’ve forgotten someone. If I have, please know it was unintentional and in part due to sleep deprivation. I am truly grateful to everyone who has helped me along this journey.



The dead are not altogether reliable. Colleen, my best friend, calls herself a Guardian Spirit. I can’t argue with the facts at hand: She’s been dead seventeen years, and she watches my back. I’m a private investigator, so situations arise from time to time wherein my back needs watching. Technically, Colleen’s afterlife mission is to protect Stella Maris, our island home near Charleston, South Carolina, from developers and all such as that. Since I’m on the town council and can’t abide the notion of condos and time-shares on our pristine beaches, protecting me falls under her purview.

Solving my cases, however, does not. She’ll tell me that in a skinny minute should I happen to mention how she could be more helpful. But she has been known to toss me the occasional insight from beyond that provokes a train of thought, which, upon reflection, proves useful. Here’s the thing: Colleen shows up when she detects I’m in danger. Sometimes she warns me in advance. Occasionally she drops by just to chat. But she doesn’t come whenever I think of her or call her name. It rarely works like that.

One Monday in December, I really could’ve used Colleen’s perspective. We were closing in on Christmas, and I was getting married on the twentieth—in five days. I was a teensy bit distracted, is what I’m saying.

It was a little after ten in the morning, and I was at my desk in the living room of my beachfront house, which doubles as my office. I was deep into research on a criminal case Nate, my partner and fiancé, and I were working for Andy Savage. Andy was a high-profile Charleston attorney, and while this case didn’t amount to much more than fact-checking, we hoped it would lead to a lucrative relationship for Talbot and Andrews, our agency.

I stared at my computer screen and reached for one of Mamma’s Christmas cookies. My phone trilled out the ringtone named Old Phone. Old Phone was reserved for old friends. I grabbed my phone instead of the cookie.

Robert Pearson. He’d been a year ahead of me in high school, the same age as my brother, Blake. He’d married one of my best friends. Robert was also our family attorney, and he and I were both on the Stella Maris town council.

I tapped the green “accept” button.

After we exchanged the usual pleasantries, he said, “I wondered, if you’re not too busy, could you drop by this afternoon? There’s something I want to run by you.”

“I have an appointment at one that’s going to take most of the afternoon.”

Multi-toned highlights are a maintenance issue, especially with hair as long as mine. My natural sandy blond would turn Tweety Bird yellow if Dori looked at it wrong. She always took her time, but five days before my wedding she’d be excruciatingly meticulous. I couldn’t walk down the aisle with yellow hair.

“Noon?” he asked.

“Sure. See you then.”

“Thanks, Liz. I really appreciate it.” He sounded way too grateful for such an ordinary request. This is what should’ve tipped me off that something was up.


Stella Maris has a lovely park right in the middle of town. Main Street and Palmetto Boulevard, the island’s two main thoroughfares, both spill into a traffic circle that borders the park. Robert’s office was in the professional building on one side of the traffic circle, next to the courthouse. It was unusual for both his receptionist and his paralegal to be out, but when I walked into the reception area, no one was there except the three-foot-tall Santa Claus by the Christmas tree. LeAnn Rimes’s remake of “Hard Candy Christmas” played through the office sound system.

“Robert?” I walked towards his private office. The door was closed.

“Coming.” Footsteps. The door swung open. “Sorry about that. Everyone’s at lunch. Come in. Have a seat.” He made his way back to the other side of his massive desk, settled into his chair, and leaned forward, hands clasped on his desk. Robert was a good-looking man—chiseled face, brown hair, blue eyes, and a movie star smile. The smile was absent today.

I made myself comfortable in one of his guest chairs. “What’s up?”

His eyes closed for a moment, then popped open and locked onto mine. “I need to retain you.” The words tumbled quickly out of his mouth, like they had to escape before he lost his nerve.

A thousand things went through my head. I’d known for years that Robert, who was probably in the dictionary under “upstanding citizen,” was hiding something contrary to everything I knew about him. Something that might’ve made him vulnerable to blackmail. I’d dug into his affairs back when I was working my Gram’s murder but had never found anything. I was all atingle with excitement.

I held his gaze. “Tell me what’s going on.”

“This is confidential, right?”

I tilted my head. “Of course. Assuming you haven’t committed a crime, aren’t planning one, have no knowledge of one, et cetera.”

It was his turn to raise his eyebrows and give me a look that said,

“Robert, how long have we known each other?”

“You see?” He gestured dramatically with both hands, a thing he was not prone to doing. “That’s the point.”

“What’s the point?”

“We’ve known each other most of our lives. In some ways, that makes this easier. In other ways it makes it harder.”

“I’m listening.”

He sat back in his chair. “Olivia’s up to something.”

“Olivia?” Olivia Tess Beauthorpe Pearson would stand as one of my four bridesmaids on Saturday. “What do you mean?”

“She’s behaving oddly.”

Exercising considerable restraint, I refrained from guffawing. I loved Olivia like a sister. But she’d never lived a commonplace day in her entire life. She thrived on high drama. She was a force of nature—a very well-bred one. “What do you mean, exactly?”

“She’s going out more at night. She’ll say it’s to do with the wedding or book club or the Christmas program at church, but it’s something all the time. And she stays out far too late. The kids ask me when Mommy’s coming home and I don’t know what to tell them half the time.”

“Is that all?”

He screwed his face up into a powerful scowl. “No, that’s not all.”

I waited.

“She’s on the phone all the damn time. Talking real low. When I come in, she’ll raise her voice and say, ‘Bye-bye now,’ and hang up.”

Gently I asked, “Do you suspect she’s having an affair, is that it?”

The scowl got tighter. “No, of course not…hell, I don’t know.” He propped his elbows on his desk and rested his forehead on his clasped hands. “I don’t want to ask a stranger to do this. Will you please just follow her for a few nights when she leaves the house and see where she goes? Who she sees? She’s going out again tonight. Claims it’s a committee meeting for the Charleston Library Society.”

I pondered this for a few minutes. I cared deeply about both Robert and Olivia. As a general rule, I’d do anything to help a friend. But I was not about to put myself between two friends in the midst of marital discord.

“Robert, I’m really sorry, but I couldn’t possibly.”

He looked perplexed.

“Why not? Isn’t this what you do for a living?”

“We do accept a fair number of domestic cases. But think this through. Heaven forbid, but what if I find out she’s involved in something illegal? Or that she is having an affair? I’d maybe end up having to testify against one of my oldest friends in court. I just can’t get in the middle of this. I think you should talk to Olivia.”

“Don’t you think I’ve tried that?”

“Well, what does she have to allow?”

“Everything’s fine. I’m imagining things.” His scowl melted into a crushed look.

I could read the pain on my friend’s face. Damnation. I stood. I had to get out of there before my sympathy for him outsmarted my common sense. “Robert, I’ll be praying that you are, in fact, imagining things. I’m so sorry. Please try talking to her again.”

I walked over, reached out and placed a hand on his shoulder, and patted it. Then I got the heck out of there.

BOOK: 04 Lowcountry Bordello
6.83Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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