My rating: 3 of 5 stars
From trial and error I've learned I prefer Ms. Harris's urban fantasy to her mysteries. That said I enjoyed this one. It was almost a 4 star read but I did find Lily a bit...abrasive. Granted she has reason to be. She is curt with most people but that's understandable. I struggled with the beginning more than anything. Lily is a cleaner, sort of a Merry Maid of one, cleaning homes and offices in Shakespeare, Arkansas. She keeps a low profile and leads a quiet life with the exception of the martial arts she studies with diligence.
It opens at the gym with awkward descriptions of Lily doing her exercises (some things just translate poorly to the written word but that's not what I struggled with). Lily has PTSD and doesn't sleep well. SHe spots something suspicious in the park across from her place and finds her landlord dead but refuses to go to the police with what she sees, calling it in anonymously. It felt more like the author wanting us guessing about this 'bad thing' in Lily's past (i.e. was she victim or aggressor) making it the thing that causes her to avoid the detective (whom she does seem to at least respect).
Lily realizes she has access to more information about the people of Shakespeare than maybe even the police because she's always in their homes, seeing all the things they tend to keep hidden. The tension rachets up when someone starts leaving her nasty little 'gifts', obviously knowing what happened in her past that has left such scars both physically and emotionally.
Lily finds herself swept up with the investigation and at least she doesn't take ridiculous risks like so many amateur sleuths do. I enjoyed it though I did find the actual killer to be a bit of a stretch (another reason I didn't go to 4 stars with this). I'd read another in this series.
and now for a spoiler that contains some trigger warnings. (view spoiler)[ This book does contain a few things that might upset people. Lily has an affair with a married man for one. Also her dark past includes torture and rape some of which is on page. this is darker than a lot of cozy readers would like. I was fine with it even though it's yet another rape of a strong woman. At least Lily's reaction to it and her PTSD seemed more plausible than we usually see. (hide spoiler)]
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See Also Murder by Larry D. Sweazy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Wow, I picked this one up for a literary destinations challenge and I needed North Dakota. I had never heard of this series but it's one I'm going to be hanging with to gobble up more. It was more like a 4 star read for the mystery but I gave it that extra star because Sweazy captures life on the Dakota plains so well (I lived in South Dakota though, similar enough). This is 1964 and it is not an easy life. In fact it's a pretty sad one for the lead character Marjorie Trumaine (and grinding over and over the same angst was one of the reasons the mystery itself is a 4 star read).
Marjorie's life is even harder than most farm house wives in the 60s. Her husband Hank had an accident while hunting, not only catching birdshot in the face costing him his sight, when he fell he broke his neck leaving him a quadriplegic in need of total care. Marjorie is barely hanging onto the farm with the help of her friends' the Knudsons and their two young sons. Also Marjorie - whose father wanted her to be an academic but she fell in love with a farmer - is an indexer, someone who makes the indexes at the back of books. She loves it being of an orderly sort of mind and the books she loves to read are her escape to worlds beyond Dakotan farm life.
And then the Knudsons are murdered, leaving their teenaged sons orphaned. Even more shocking, Erik Knudson is found with a bizarre Nordic amulet in his hand. Marjorie is brought into the investigation by her friend, Sheriff Hilo because she's 'the smartest person he knows.' He believes the amulet is somehow related to the murder and he knows she can handle the academic side of things to find out what the amulet is and why the murderer would have left it at the crime scene.
Marjorie is facing not only a mounting body count but also the worries of Hank dying on her (though he pretty much wishes he was dead) the loss of her friends, the chance she'll lose the farm and then someone starts to stalk her.
It was a very satisfying, if morose mystery. I found Marjorie convincing as an investigator and person (all the little details, like finding solace in a cigarette, the feel of the wind blowing across the prairie really made this novel. It was one of the most surprising finds all year. Looking forward to more.
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