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THE ECHOES
by Jess Montgomery
Minotaur, March 2022
288 pages
$27.99
ISBN: 1250623421


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

In 1925, in rural Vinton County, Ohio, Sheriff Fletcher Collins was murdered. His widow, Maude Collins, took up his badge to serve out his term as sheriff. When the term expired, she ran for the same office and won, becoming Ohio's first female sheriff. She stares out of a 1920s photo with a determined gaze, her no-nonsense short haircut suggesting she's ready for adventures, but her long ruffled skirt indicating that she's not a flapper, not yet, anyway. Maude Collins's story inspired Ohio novelist Jess Montgomery to write a brilliant series of historical mysteries, in which the state's first female sheriff is the Collins-like Lily Macarthur Ross and the town bears the evocative name of Kinship. The first three instalments, THE WIDOWS, THE HOLLOWS, and THE STILLS are mesmerizing examples of rural American Gothic, written poetically yet unpretentiously, and with resolute pride in rural Midwestern cultural memory. The fourth novel, THE ECHOES, is no exception.

In THE ECHOES, Lily Ross learns that her beloved late brother Roger Macarthur, who was killed in France in the Great War, has a nine-year-old daughter, Esme. Her mother, a Frenchwoman whom Roger met when he hid a wounded buddy in her barn, died in childbirth. Esme's grandmother Charlotte, terminally ill, makes the brave and risky decision to send her to Lily's mother Beulah Macarthur in Kinship, with whom Charlotte has long secretly corresponded. Charlotte takes this risk partly from desperation and partly because Beulah's letters paint Lily and the extended Macarthur family as great protectors and role models for her child.

When the novel opens, Esme is on board the transatlantic ship, and uncertain whether she can trust her Charlotte-appointed chaperone, a woman named Madame Blanchett who intends to emigrate to St. Louis. Beulah is struggling with her mixed emotions about Esme's imminent surprise arrival, and Lily learns that her childhood acquaintance and Great War veteran Chalmer Fitzpatrick is starting a circus business. Then, a woman goes missing and a baby turns up abandoned. Are these events connected to Esme's rescue, or Chalmers' business dealings? Montgomery's swift and natural pacing, multiple perspectives within the third-person narration, and command of the intricacies of rural criminality make this a gripping question.

As Lily solves these mysteries, she encounters other ones, about echoes from the past that continue to upend life in Kinship. Questions such as what war does to soldiers' minds and how trauma trickles through generations of families, communities, and nations. The result is a powerful book to which the entire series thus far builds in an epic crescendo. I hope that Lily and the kinfolk of Kinship have more adventures yet to come.

Rebecca Nesvet is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay and co-edits Reviewing the Evidence.

Reviewed by Rebecca Nesvet, March 2022

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