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'Bombshell' keeps the twists coming

| Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Eccentric characters go together in Southern mysteries like, well, shrimp and grits. But Susan M. Boyer deftly shapes characters with just enough idiosyncrasies without succumbing to cliches in her engaging second novel.

“Lowcountry Bombshell” surprises at every twist as Boyer infuses her lighthearted plot with a look at obsession with celebrity, unadulterated greed and an affectionate look at South Carolina.

Private detective Liz Talbot pretty much has her feet on the ground with a practical view of the world, despite her rather complicated love life. It's the clients who come to her P.I. firm who are the odd ones. At least, that's often how it appears on the surface. Her latest client is Calista McQueen, who glides into Liz's office looking like a picture-perfect likeness of actress Marilyn Monroe. A recent transplant to Stella Maris, a fictional island adjacent to Charleston, S.C., Calista is convinced that someone wants to kill her and that it will occur on the anniversary of Monroe's death.

Liz is intrigued by her client. She's also a little skeptical of Calista's alleged similarities to the famous actress, from the names of her client's former husbands to her celebrity-obsessed family. But there may be a more-realistic reason for Calista's fears than the Monroe resemblance — Calista is a rich woman, wealthy beyond comprehension.

Boyer keeps “Lowcountry Bombshell” moving on a steady course, with bits of humor enhancing the plot. In small towns, the diners often double as a town square and Boyer makes the most of the Cracked Pot, where gossip is as much a part of the menu as the chicken pot pie. And in a time in which “Toddlers and Tiaras” show just how desperate parents can be, the idea of a family modeling their daughter to be Marilyn Monroe's doppelganger doesn't seem out of line.

The setting of Charleston and environs enhances the story as Boyer mixes in real restaurants such as the historic Blind Tiger Pub and critically acclaimed Anson.

A light mystery melded with the private-detective genre has proved to be a winner for Boyer, whose debut last year “Lowcountry Boil” landed on a couple of best-selling lists and earned her the Agatha and the Daphne du Maurier awards. She continues her lively storytelling in the highly entertaining “Lowcountry Bombshell.”

Oline H. Cogdill is a staff writer for the Sun Sentinel.

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