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Saturday, March 28, 2020

Second Appalachian Historical Mystery As Intriguing As First

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

(Note:  Although this review will not contain spoilers for The Hollows, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from its predecessor, The Widows.  As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.)

When an elderly woman is hit by a train on an isolated piece of railroad track, Sheriff Lily Ross is called in to investigate.  While it's immediately clear that the woman is dead, it's not apparent just what she was doing out in the middle of nowhere in the dead of night, wearing only a flimsy nightgown.  Marks on her wrists indicate she had been restrained recently.  Was the death a tragic accident caused by a roaming senior citizen with dementia?  Suicide?  Or did something more sinister occur?  Lily doesn't believe the brakeman's tale about a ghost pushing the old lady off a cliff directly into the path of an oncoming train, but she can't shake the feeling that there's more to the incident than meets the eye.

Determined to figure out Jane Doe's identity and the truth behind her death, Lily starts digging.  Her probing leads her to a facility deep in the holler.  Hiding secrets both old and new, The Hollows asylum may be the key to solving Lily's current mystery as well as answering disturbing questions from the past.  In the midst of working the Jane Doe case, Lily's also dealing with the fallout from attempted integration at the mines, an upcoming election that could win her the sheriff's seat in her own right, and a shivery ghost story she's starting to believe in spite of herself.  Can Lily close the case?  Will she keep her job as sheriff, despite many thinking it's an unsuitable job for a lady?  And what about the ghost that haunts the holler?  Will it make a believer out of pragmatic Lily Ross?

I enjoyed The Widows—the first installment in Jess Montgomery's historical mystery series featuring Lily Ross—so I was eager to read its sequel, The Hollows.  Like its predecessor, the novel features an atmospheric Appalachian setting in an intriguing historical time period.  It discusses issues/groups I don't know much about, including prohibition, integration in the mining industry, women's issues in the 1920s, and the Women's Klu Klux Klan.  In addition, it brings together a cast of colorful characters, most of whom are likable and fun to read about.  Lily is no exception.  She's an understated heroine, which makes her all the more alluring.  To top it all off, Montgomery writes with assured, engrossing prose.  All of these elements come together to make The Hollows another winning historical mystery from Montgomery.  You better believe I'm eagerly awaiting the next installment in this enjoyable series.

(Readalikes:  The Widows by Jess Montgomery)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for brief, mild language (no F-bombs), violence, disturbing subject matter, and sexual innuendo

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of The Hollows from the generous folks at St. Martin's Press in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you! 
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