Barn burning in a sleepy farming community is a serious enough matter, but a grisly murder or two in a small midwest town is a showstopper. Throw in a serial blackmailer who has his claws in some of the town’s leading citizens and you have one big recipe for disaster.
Charlie Simmons, newly sworn in as Shannon’s policeman, takes on the challenge of investigating this cauldron of crimes in stride, untangling one thread after another from the fabric of the town of Shannon to find the simple truth.
Matthey takes us to a small town in northwestern Ohio in the 1950s. Her writing style aptly reflects the sleepy town as we experience a rambling but methodical tour through its people and places. There are several side stories embellishing the mystery, the kinds of stories we would hear as we meandered through its streets. The acting police chief fits the small town as he goes about talking to people, gently probing for clues. It was a time long before rural towns had law enforcement with any training. Charlie fits the bill, sitting with his feet on his desk mulling over the last comments he's heard and wondering of there is a clue in their midst.
It took a while to become engaged in the pleasant narrative of this mystery with its lack of intensity. I continued reading with the idea of the author setting the pace of the plot to match the atmosphere of the town. That worked for me and kept me interested. The time is long before investigative or forensic techniques were introduced into small towns. It was interesting to see how a recent mechanic or farmer now acting police chief would go about rooting out the murderer in a more bumbling manner than modern police procedure.
The ending to the novel seemed a little unrealistic but Matthey is writing about events during her father's lifetime. Reading this novel was a pleasant change from more intense and structured mysteries.
My rating: 4/5 stars.
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(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)