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Sunday, February 17, 2013

Review: A Lack of Temperance

Title: A Lack of Temperance
Author: Anna Loan-Wilsey
Page Count: 304 pages
Publisher: Kensington
Genre: historical mystery, first in a series
Copy for review obtained via my public library

Back Cover Summary:
Have typewriter will travel...and track down dead bodies. Not the usual motto for a Victorian private secretary and certainly not what Miss Hattie Davish has in mind when she responds to the latest summons for her services. On the eve of the 1892 Election, Hattie arrives in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, a booming health spa and vacation resort, hoping to hike the hills, botanize and placate the demands of her newest high-society employer. Yet her employer is missing, and this idyllic Ozark village is being plagued by a league of temperance women attacking saloons with hatchets and bricks, a city council candidate fighting in the streets and a trail of cryptic death threats. With her reputation and life on the line, Hattie will put more than her trusty typewriter to the test.

I had seen this title pop up in my Google Reader a couple of times and the interesting and unique historical setting is what first grabbed my attention.  The setting of Eureka Springs is almost a character unto itself throughout the story, which was a good first offering from a debut mystery author.

Hattie Davish is refreshing as a protagonist- astute, observant, curious but not nosy, she shows up in Eureka Springs to do a job and is thoroughly put out that her employer is such an enigma and that the workings of the Temperance movement are so chaotic.  All she wants is some clarification on what she's supposed to be doing, and where, and with whom, and what she gets is an entry way into a murder mystery.  Investigation is not in her job description, certainly, but she isn't one to just sit back and let injustice pass.

This is one of those mysteries where the reader can certainly figure out who the murderer is if he or she keeps track of the details, and the conclusion is logical, which is nice.  There are a couple of times where the plot slowed a little for my tastes- one too many scenes of the police not taking Hattie seriously and maybe one too many red herrings- but these are matters of personal preference, and let's face it, I'm not sure how seriously Hattie's discoveries would have been taken at the actual time in history either.

There were also lots of references to Hattie's mysterious benefactor/reference/previous/current employer, and I admit I wasn't quite clear on how he and Hattie were connected.  I'm hoping we'll find out more about him in future stories.

There was also Hattie's interest in the town doctor in Eureka Springs.  He seems like a nice guy, but I'm curious if we'll see him again since the next book is set in Georgia.  Time will tell, eh?

Overall this was a fun book and a good way to pass a Friday night after work.  It's not a hardboiled crime novel and falls squarely in the realm of cozy mysteries, and if that's your scene then I definitely recommend picking this one up.

Overall Rating:

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