Mystery /Family Drama
1900s / 1934
"When her new husband Sam perishes in a bizarre farm accident, would-be milliner Polly soon becomes the prime suspect in his murder. As she digs for evidence to clear her name, Polly falls into a sinister web implicating her in a nefarious crime ring being investigated by White House Police. Polly’s life and those of her family are at stake. Narrated by Polly, her self-righteous older sister, Sarah, and Sarah’s well-meaning, but flawed husband Wesley, a Methodist minister, the story follows several twists through the landscape of the rural Midwest."
This is an enjoyable mystery. It is set in 1934 Michigan during the Great Depression, when farmers were living hand to mouth and struggling to keep the banks from repossessing their smallholdings. Twenty-year-old Polly lives on a farm, stuck in a loveless marriage. Her sister, Sarah, is living in an adjacent farm, married to Wesley, a preacher-cum-farmer. Polly is childless; Sarah has three young children. Polly’s husband, Sam, abuses her physically and verbally, but Polly tells nobody – not even her sister or in correspondence with her mother. When Sam is found lying dead in the barn, the story takes off, and continues through a series of twists, most of which took me by surprise.
The two sisters are of very different personality types, creating an element of tension, which is maintained skillfully throughout. The author uses three different narrative points of view and short chapters. On balance, I felt this enhanced the book.
I did have one thought, however. It is tagged as a mystery - and it is a mystery and a very well written one at that - but the main thrust of the book seems to be the transformation of one of the characters from immature gold digger to sensible adult, rather than a mystery puzzle for the reader to solve.
That personal perspective on my part aside, it was an interesting and satisfying read.
Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds
© J J Toner