In last week’s reading update I mentioned that I’d enjoyed Jess Montgomery’s new historical mystery, The Hollows. It was the last book I started in 2019 and was just released last Tuesday (January 14, 2020).
This is the second book in Montgomery’s Kinship series. The first was The Widows. If you like historical fiction that’s inspired by the life of a real person, set in a specific place, and that’s about women stepping into public roles at a time when they weren’t encouraged to do so, this series is for you.
I enjoy so many things about this series, from the overall vibe to the characters to the smaller details. For example, there’s a scene in The Hollows where Lily, the main character and sheriff, attends the monthly Woman’s Club meeting where,
“already-exhausted guests are lulled to sleep by cookies and tea after a tedious presentation comparing Mary Roberts Rinehart’s The Circular Staircase to her newest thriller, The Red Lamp, and somehow making both sound dull, followed by a tiresome discussion of efforts to raise monies for a public library.”
Can’t you picture the scene? And its super cool that Montgomery gives Mary Roberts Rinehart a plug. Rinehart isn’t read very much today, but she was an early and popular American mystery writer. I wrote about her here and you can download many of her novels from Project Gutenberg here.
But in the scene above, Lily isn’t suffering through the meeting just because the author wanted to add some period details (the club itself, the author, the public library movement). No, something happens in the scene that helps Lily put together more pieces of the mystery that’s driving the plot. And this is evidence that Montgomery not only knows the history of the time and place, she’s a good writer. She’s not just sprinkling historical tidbits here and there, but making them work for the character, the setting, and the plot. That seamlessness is what makes historical fiction feel real.
Read my full review of The Hollows over on Criminal Element — https://www.criminalelement.com/book-review-hollows-jess-montgomery/