Lethal Lineage by Charlotte Hinger

Lethal LineageReviewed by Caryn St. Clair

What starts out as a happy celebration for both the Albright family and the parishioners of St. Helena’s Church, turns terribly wrong in the course of a few minutes. First the visiting Episcopal Bishop who has come to confirm Lottie and Josie Albright’s niece delivers what can only be described as a fire and brimstone homily. Then as the congregation is receiving communion, Reverend Mary Farnsworth, drops the chalice spilling the consecrated wine before fleeing to the ante-room. Farnsworth is found dead after the service ends. That is the set up for Hinger’s second Lottie Albright mystery.

There are so many different angles to this book to pull different sorts of readers in. It’s rather unusual to have a protagonist who is both an amateur sleuth and a law enforcement officer, but that is exactly what readers have in Lottie Albright. While she came to Western Kansas as the Director of the County Historical Society, she soon found herself a part-time deputy for the Sheriff’s Department and is now in fact the Under Sheriff. So while the book is technically a police procedural, it’s also an amateur detective novel. Because Lottie’s current project at the Historical Society is writing the county’s history through the stories of the residents, it is very much historical fiction as well.

Then there’s the rich detailing of Western Kansas for a setting which brings the area to life leaving no confusion with the reader that Lottie’s Kansas is far, far away from Kansas City-and not just in miles. Through the oral histories of the families readers learn much of how this area of the country came to be settled-what drew people to what was not by any measure an easy life in the early days.

For readers fond of mysteries set around religion, there is the interesting plot line centered on the Episcopal Church. The death of Mary Farnsworth immediately sets off a controversy over who has jurisdiction over the investigation since the church is built on land straddling four different counties. Some really interesting history of church building on the prairies and the history of clergy known as “tent builders” are entwined throughout the book.

But the thread that pulls all of these things together is the remarkable characters found in the Lottie Albright books. Lottie and her twin sister Josie are a different as can be, but in spite of their personality differences, there is the strong “twin” interconnection. Keith Feine, Lottie’s husband struggles to accept his wife’s involvement with the Sheriff’s Department. His children who are not exactly thrilled to have a stepmother more their age than their father’s present a dose of reality in the family dynamics. The various community members who fight amongst themselves on nearly every issue, but close ranks quickly against any outside threat to their community-all of these people come together on the pages of Hinger’s book to give the plot depth and bringing it to life.
With so many different angles, it’s hard to imagine a reader not being drawn into this book. The book’s short chapters end with a teaser to keep the pace moving, making it hard to put the book down once started. This is quickly becoming one of my “must read” series.

Disclosure in Accordance with FTC Guidelines 16 CFR Part 255

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