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Best Served Cold: Independent Book Review

April 5, 2019

New characters, higher stakes, and the same old Maggie Barnes.
Best Served Cold proves to be a thrilling, worthwhile new addition to The Bootleggers’ Chronicles series.

When readers think about Decter’s The Bootleggers’ Chronicles, they think of 1920s Philadelphia. They think of bootlegging, of dialogue, flappers, colorful characters, and crime and corruption. Now, thanks to Best Served Cold, they can add a few new twists and turns to the mix. And the best of them all? Maggie Barnes is pushing ever closer to the danger she’s been trying to protect the city from.The plot is reaching new heights, and the promise of entertainment is starting to reach even higher.

With each book in the series, we are given a new storyline to pay attention to, always set against the driving force of the plotline: Mickey Duffy, king of the bootleggers, and his dangerous operation. This time, we have the opportunity to follow the Bailey family around a little bit more, a group of characters living on a nearby farm who can’t help but get themselves into trouble. The Baileys stick their heads where they don’t belong, which is bad for them but good for us, because hoo-boy, do they give us some satisfying new plot complications. They manage to get right in the middle of the two bootlegging rivals of Mickey Duffy and Boo-Boo Hoff, inevitably starting a feud. And as you might expect, some fireworks come in the size and shape of tommy guns.

Delores Bailey, the teenage girl in the family, has already snuck her way into the plot in a previous book, but she really blossoms in Best Served Cold. Considering she’s stuck in a family of abusive boys and respects our protagonist Maggie Barnes, we can’t help but sympathize with her as readers—even while we’re feeling skeptical of her curious actions. Since Decter never allows us to get close enough to Delores, we can only stand idly by along with the characters, trying to piece together if she is up to no good or if she’s just a poor character in the wrong situation.

From an action-packed plot to characters you could only get in this world, you’re sure to get nice and cozy within the pages of Best Served Cold. As always, our protagonist Maggie Barnes refuses to back down from her duty of protecting the streets. She is a strong character in this book who needs no one other than herself (and maybe her ghost friend Frank) to get what she needs.

The dialogue in The Bootleggers’ Chronicles series continues to shine. It’s not only an important setting-builder for the 1920s atmosphere, but it also acts as an extremely useful and entertaining tool in helping propel the plot forward. Put Mickey’s wife Edith in any room, and the reader will be ready to pay attention to whatever is going to come out of her mouth.

Author Sherilyn Decter is always one step ahead. In Best Served Cold, she makes sure that we are constantly paying attention to each breadcrumb she’s laying down. With each new hint comes the promise of a truly explosive finale in the final book, and I really can’t wait to see how it unfolds.

I wouldn’t classify Best Served Cold as a perfect novel, but it really is growing closer to fulfilling every desire I have when picking up the series. I’d love to spend just a bit more time before, during, and after action scenes in this novel, but regardless, it’s exciting to know that Decter recognizes that it’s time to ramp up the action and keep our readerly curiosities going. I can only expect more action to come in book four.

As a whole, Best Served Cold does not disappoint. It has revenge, drama, and some truly entertaining new characters to pay attention to. Throw in the fact that Maggie Barnes is getting herself into even more trouble in this one, and you’ve got the makings of a truly exciting third installment.

Joe Walters