Literary sleuths, thy professions are legion; Lydia Proctor, the heroine of this mystery is a genealogist and volunteer librarian – in those few hours that she can spare from her generally fulfilling and happy family life. Of that thin materiel a really engaging little historical mystery is spun. It’s a hundred-year old mystery, concerning the suspicious death of Captain Andrew Bower’s third wife. It emerges that the good Captain was married five times, and three of his wives died mysteriously, one after the other. Foul play was suspected at the time, and his descendents have been haunted by those sudden deaths and their aftermath ever after.

Can a definitive answer be found, more than a hundred years after the facts, when all of those involved as adults are long in their graves? What kind of clues can be teased out of old letters and depositions, the placement of burials in a graveyard, old store inventories, and the memories of those few very elderly who were children listening to the gossip of their elders? Quite a fair number, as it turns out, especially when assessed by an enthusiast like Lydia and her willing friends. The clues are ready to be found and assembled, like a jig-saw puzzle, but with all the pieces scattered in odd places and mixed in with the pieces of other puzzles. In this instance they may be clues to the existence of a serial killer.

Characterization is a little on the thin side; oddly, it’s the long-ago characters which emerge as the most vivid and sympathetic. The conversations fall on my ear a little clunkily, but these faults are made up for it by the plot and the intricate unveiling of the many clues. I did spot the means fairly early on, as well as the murderer – but only because I had been doing research on that particular method for a project of my own, and so was drawn to pay attention upon its (apparently) casual mention.

“An Old Fashioned Murder” is published by Infinity Publishing.com, and is available through Amazon.com

Sgt. Mom is a free-lance writer and member of the Independent Authors Guild who lives in San Antonio and blogs at The Daily Brief. Her current book “To Truckee’s Trail” is available here. More about her books is at her website www.celiahayes.com

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