Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Book Review: Lethal Lineage by Charlotte Hinger

Lethal Lineage is the second book of the Lottie Albright series by Charlotte Hinger. You don’t need to have read the first book to understand what’s going on in the small Kansas town where Lottie lives. This is a big plus, because I was introduced to the character with this book.

The first thing that impressed me was the sense of place. Hinger takes us into the vast Western Kansas plains and wraps us in the relentless wind that shapes her characters. Readers who have driven across Kansas can appreciate Lottie’s sister’s opinion of the drive and her husband’s remark about having heard all the jokes.

Lottie is a busy woman, working for the historical society, holding down a second part time job as county under-sheriff, and dealing with the problems of church, home, and family. Life gets complicated on all fronts when the minister drops dead during the first service at their tiny new Episcopalian church, St. Helena. The death sets us up with all the makings of a locked room mystery. Readers must untangle knots of family relationships and delve into grudges as old as the Kansas frontier before discovering what really happened at that fateful Sunday service.

One of the biggest problems with Lottie’s investigation is her prickly relationship with the sheriff of the adjacent county. She steps on his toes early and gets locked up in his jail overnight. From there, the relationship goes downhill.

Hinger is an historian and a talented writer. I was impressed with her firm grasp of the history and politics of Kansas. She also has a talent at creating complex characters. Mystery writing is a tricky art, and I felt that the red herring on which her plot turns left me twisting a little in the Kansas wind. This is a small flaw in an otherwise perfect gem of a book. I look forward to seeing more from Charlotte Hinger and encourage you to read her work.

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