Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Daniele
Once again Nell Pratt has to dig into the past to solve a murder in the present…
Between the challenges of her position as president of the Pennsylvania Antiquarian Society in Philadelphia and of taking her relationship with FBI agent James Morrison to the next level, Nell Pratt has got her hands full. Nevertheless, when a powerful developer approaches the Society to make sure the old dairy farm he wants to level is not hiding any archeological or historical surprises that could derail the project he’s planning, Nell decides to make time to personally accompany him to the proposed site.
But when they get to the property, they stumble upon a startling discovery—a body floating facedown in a pond. The dead man turns out to be an amateur history enthusiast, who may have uncovered secrets about the farm that got him killed. Now it’s up to Nell and James to get to the bottom of things before there are more deadly developments…(Amazon.com)
Razing the Dead picks up right where Monument for the Dead leaves off with Nell busy splitting her time taking care of her FBI agent boyfriend, James, while he is recovering from injuries sustained in Monument and her work as president of the Pennsylvania Antiquarian Society in Philadelphia. Mitchell Wakeman, a local developer, has a dream project that he is ready to move forward with and solicits Nell to research the history of the dairy farm he has purchased. He wants no surprises to hinder carrying out his project. He agrees to fund a part-time employee to do the work, and Nell hires a grad student named Lissa who is familiar with local history. To get a better feel for the task, Nell and Lissa take a tour of the land with Wakeman and discover a body in a shallow pond. The deceased is George Bowen, a township employee in charge of land use and zoning. He was also quite the local history buff. Since the township is small (outside of Philadelphia), the local FBI office is called in to assist in the investigation, and James is assigned to the case. The next day, tracking dogs find the location of George’s murder, elsewhere on the property, and two more bodies, but these are obviously older than George, probably Revolutionary War era. So, like it or not, Nell finds herself once again caught up in the middle of a mysterious death. Is George’s death related to the skeletons? Is it all a big cover up? As she investigates, she finds plenty of suspects…township employees, family members, and maybe even Wakeman himself.
I enjoy the historical aspects of this series probably more than the characters themselves. The series is a bit different than the typical cozy in that it generally takes place in a big city instead of a small town. However, the museum world is small and insular which provides that same kind of cozy atmosphere. Nell’s character has matured and developed as the stories have progressed. In this installment, she experiences pretty significant personal growth, and I expect the future Nell to be a bit different. The other characters, though, especially the Society employees, have a lot of room to grow. I feel they mostly act as a sounding board for Nell to bounce her ideas off of. A couple of new characters are introduced here, and I hope Ms. Connolly takes their story somewhere. Nell’s growing relationship with James reads pretty true to life, and followers of the series should be pleased with their advancement.
I did find the mystery aspect of the book to be interesting, especially the Revolutionary War remains. However, I thought the motivation of George’s killer to be a bit farfetched and weak. My big complaint, and it is not that big, is that there are numerous typos and consistency errors in the book. For example, in one scene, two characters are at lunch together and one character takes a bite of his sandwich before the sandwiches are served in the next paragraph.
I would recommend Razing the Dead to fans of Ms. Connolly’s writing in her other series, followers of the Museum Mysteries, and those who enjoy learning about America’s history.