Deadly Descent by Charlotte Hinger

descentReviewed by Caryn St. Clair

In the first of what will hopefully be a long series, Deadly Descent introduces Lottie Albright, Director of the Carlton County, Kansas Historical Society. Not a native to this close knit rural community, Lottie is still viewed as an outsider even though she has been married to a long time resident for seven years. But sometimes, an outsider’s eyes come in handy when it comes to solving mysteries buried in the past.

One of Lottie’s jobs as County Historian, is to collect, preserve and publish a book of family histories submitted by the residents. While interesting reading, and sometimes riddled with a family member’s selective memories, Lottie never considered the idea that any of the stories would lead to murder. Unfortunately, it did.

Senate candidate, Brian Hadley, is from one of Carlton County’s oldest and most prominent families, so getting his families’ stories for her book was very important to Lottie. When his Aunt Zelda dropped her story off, Lottie was thrilled-until she read it. She knew that the accusations made would incite Fiona Hadley’s rage, and seriously damage her son’s political future. What she did not anticipate was that story would lead to multiple murders and secrets buried far in the past to coming to light.

There are so many things to like about this first mystery. First of all, Lottie Albright rings true from the first page, as does her job with the Historical Society. I was not at all surprised to read that the author herself holds a very similar position. The only stretch of believability was when Lottie was hired by the sheriff’s department, or at least what her role became. The rest of the characters are also very real and very true to a small community where families tend to stay for several generations.

Another thing the author has done quite well is the pacing of the plot. On the very first page, when Lottie reads Zelda’s submission, the reader is the drawn into the book with the catalyst for everything that comes later. With the exception of a necessary, but a little awkward chapter near the beginning that introduces readers to Lottie’s family, the book really moves along. There is a surprising amount of action in this book that keeps the pages turning rapidly.

Also, the author plays fair with the readers. She leads readers along, giving clues along the way as to what the secret might be that Fiona is so determined to keep buried. Whether or not readers have figured it all out ahead of time (I didn’t), the conclusion ties things up and leaves readers satisfied that the all clues to the solution were there.

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