Saturday, October 24, 2009

Mystery Book Review: Deadly Descent by Charlotte Hinger

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of Deadly Descent by Charlotte Hinger. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

Deadly Descent by Charlotte Hinger

A Lottie Albright Mystery

Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-59058-645-X (159058645X)
ISBN-13: 978-1-59058-645-7 (9781590586457)
Publication Date: September 2009
List Price: $24.95

Review: Charlotte Hinger introduces Lottie Albright, a woman quite satisfied with her life, a marriage to a widower with grown children and a new career as a historian, in Deadly Descent.

Western Kansas is seen to many as simply the Great American Desert, but Lottie is out to change that. There are enough unwritten stories in the area to keep Lottie publishing forever and a day. Her twin sister, Josie, a psychologist, thinks she's on the wrong path in her life. "It is the land that is flat," she says, "not my life." In the beginning she's accused by the town board members of being an outsider and stirring up trouble, digging up useless stories for her project. But all Lottie wants is the true story of the families that have lived in the area for years.

Zelda St. John has written the history of her family and given it to Lottie for the historical society archives. When Zelda's sister Fiona learns of this, she insists the manuscript be returned. Zelda has written nothing but lies, Fiona asserts. Lottie explains the document is now property of the society, and she cannot give it to her. Fiona is concerned that if the information -- lies, she believes -- becomes public knowledge, her son Brian will not be elected senator of the state, his political career destroyed. Lottie allows Fiona to read the document, but not to keep it. Later that night, while celebrating her seventh wedding anniversary, Lottie is called by Sheriff Sam Abbott, who tells her Zelda has been murdered, and Fiona is the prime suspect. Lottie thinks she can help, and to demonstrate that she can, she takes on a 40-year-old cold case of a pregnant woman who was killed, her unborn child cut from her womb. The woman's husband was arrested and found guilty, but had a stroke and was institutionalized, unable to communicate. In a strange twist of historical fate, Lottie discovers this cold case is linked to the murder of Zelda St. John ... and also poses a threat to Lottie herself.

Deadly Descent is a winning debut. Readers who have lived in small towns, especially those in remote areas, will identify with many of the characters that populate this novel. The mystery plot is well developed and unfolds in such a way one is never quite sure what will happen next. Combining historical research and modern investigative techniques, Deadly Descent is a terrific start to a most promising series.

Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of The Betz Review for contributing her review of Deadly Descent and to Poisoned Pen Press for providing an ARC of the book for this review.

Review Copyright © 2009 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved

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Synopsis (from the publisher): In historian Lottie Albright’s Western Kansas community, false accusations threaten senatorial candidate Brian Hadley’s political career, secrets whispered to her as editor of the county history books spur a personal search for his aunt’s murderer. Ignoring warnings from her twin sister, Josie, that she is in over her head, Lottie dons a badge to have access to information. She delves into a horrifying “cold case” to prove her merits as a deputy and impresses Sheriff Sam Abbot with her ability to combine historical research methods and police procedure. To help her sister, Josie adds her expertise in untangling the web of families bound by a lethal legacy of prideful secrets. Soon Lottie is stalked by a clever killer threatened by the twins’ ability to connect the dots. Blindsided by her protective husband’s disapproval of new job, and aghast at a bizarre attempt to sabotage her academic credentials, Lottie knows her obsession is destroying her marriage and her reputation.

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