This is the kind of book you read with a lump in your throat. Jess Montgomery’s portrayal of 1920’s Ohio is so deeply felt, so evocative, so redolent of history and memory and shared experience, that to read one of these books is to be completely immersed, while at the same time feeling all of the human experience. Montgomery covers it all – birth, death and everything in between. This novel seemed to me to be the most focused of her books plot wise, and that seemed to give this story an extra intensity.
After we closed the store and my reading was slightly less proscribed by authors visiting or the latest new thing, I realized that one of the genres I truly love is historical mysteries. The range is so wide – in story telling style, in time period, in characters, and the armchair history lessons always, always add to my reading enjoyment. The fact that the books are set in the past makes the detective rely much more on old fashioned, golden age style sleuthing methods, another attraction, as far as I’m concerned. Thanks to Mystery Scene Magazine as well as my own reading, I find I read pretty widely in this subgenre. Here are my 10 favorites this year. One of them I liked so much it’s on my all around top 10 list (stay tuned!)
This is the third book in the “kinship” series, set on the outer edges of 1920’s Ohio (Chillicothe is the big city), and each book centers itself on a different woman, though the central character is always Sherriff Lily Ross. Lily became Sherriff after the murder of her sheriff husband and the first book was her story, as well as the story of labor organizer Marvena, now one of Lily’s best friends. The second novel was about her friend, schoolteacher Hildy, and this book follows the story of Fiona, who is married to the series bad guy, George Vogel.
The second novel in Jess Montgomery’s remarkable series set in a 1920’s Ohio mining town is every bit as memorable and vivid as the first, The Widows, which was far and away one of the best books of 2019. Montgomery brings to life the story of the first female sheriff, Lily Ross, in tiny Kinship, Ohio. While the first novel concerned itself with the politics of mining, this novel is more of a straight mystery, which veers into the unfortunate territory of racism and because of the time period, an ever present and ingrained sexism. This is naturally a hindrance at times to Lily’s carrying out her duties.
I couldn’t keep it to 10 this year – can I ever? My taste does tend toward the traditional and historical fiction side of things, so that’s mostly reflected here. And a note: Kent Krueger’s This Tender Land, while not strictly a mystery, can definitely be enjoyed by his mystery loving fans. Quite simply, it’s the best book of 2019 of any variety, and I hope everyone reads it. I am looking to read it again myself.
There was lots to love this year! Some long-awaited returns (S.J. Rozan), some debuts (Melanie Golding, Allison Montclair, Jess Montgomery), some trying a different format or series (Ann Cleeves, Elly Griffiths), and of course some solid entries in already great series (Benn, Bowen, Jones, Massey, Shaber). Lots of great, passionate, spectacular writing. I love being a mystery reader!