Aubrey moved to Key West from New York after a bad relationship and is now content managing the Smith Family Historical Home, once inhabited by Captain Smith, a locally famous sea captain. Aubrey is looking forward to his vacation and a visit from Jun Tanaka, an FBI agent and, Aubrey hopes, his soon-to-be boyfriend. Yet, the day Jun is expected to arrive, Aubrey is removing historically inaccurate wallpaper from the inside of a closet when out tumbles a human skeleton from behind a false wall! After recovering from the shock and a cataplectic attack — a symptom of Aubrey’s narcolepsy — Aubrey phones the police, only to return to the home with the detective to find the skeleton missing.
Strange incidents surrounding Captain Smith continue to occur, including Aubrey finding a dead body in the historical home late at night. Aubrey and Jun’s planned vacation becomes a treasure hunt and a search for the answer to the mystery behind Captain Smith’s double life.
Southernmost Murder is the first book I have read by C.S. Poe and though there are mentions of the characters from her Snow and Winter series, this did not spoil my enjoyment of the story in any way.
In Southernmost Murder, Poe’s characterization is vivid and I could easily visualize Aubrey and Jun. Poe excellently captures the energy of her protagonists in her writing and though I was also swept along with the drama of events, Jun and Aubrey completely captivated me, individually and as a couple. In my opinion, this is very much aided by Poe’s decision to use Aubrey as Southernmost Murder‘s first-person narrator. Aubrey’s voice is natural and candid and it often feels that his questions are directed at the reader:
“But yeah — first hug. Keep it friendly? Make it intimate?”
Not only does this style of narration involve the reader in the story, but I felt as though I was linked to Aubrey’s thoughts and emotions because I was clearly seeing events as they happened.
Aubrey is not afraid to reveal his flamboyance and individuality, illustrated best by his pink Vespa, piercings, style of clothing, and love of anything to do with octopuses. I do not think that Aubrey ever presents himself to the reader as a stereotypical thirty-eight-year-old man, but, personally, this is not a bad thing and only gives more depth to his character. After all, ‘you are only as old as you feel’. In contrast, Jun is a pants and shirt guy and not overly fond of conversation, but through Aubrey’s eyes, the reader sees him as a bad-ass.
Poe never lets the reader get entirely carried away with the murder-mystery elements of Southernmost Murder and allow us to forget the intense connection between the two men. The sex scenes happen naturally and are sizzling hot, exposing more about Jun and Aubrey’s characters, which I was surprised by and I really like the fact that the men are mature and comfortable enough not to hide who they are.
Narcolepsy is not a disorder I knew much about before I began Southernmost Murder and I think that it is really interesting that Poe has chosen this as Aubrey’s diagnosis. Aubrey explains himself what living with narcolepsy is like and it does not inhibit him. I also think that because he is the one experiencing the symptoms, we are allowed to see the humorous side of the disorder, for example when he jokes to Jun that sex could provoke an attack. This does not mean that Poe makes a joke of living with narcolepsy. We also understand that Aubrey should not drink alcohol, has to take medication, needs a regular sleeping pattern, and should not drink coffee.
I think Aubrey’s enthusiasm for the Smith family home means that Captain Smith becomes an important character to the reader too. I really liked how his story develops as Aubrey discovers more information and there is a certain poignancy to all that is revealed about him.
Southernmost Murder has intrigue, romance, mystery, and obviously, murder. It is not an edge-of-your-seat read, but more like a contemporary Agatha Christie — if she had written gay fiction! I could not give this any less than 5 stars and cannot wait to read more by the author.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.