1964—Life on the North Dakota farm hasn’t always been easy for Marjorie Trumaine. She has begun working as a professional indexer to help with the bills—which have only gotten worse since the accident that left her husband, Hank, blind and paralyzed. When her nearest neighbours are murdered in their beds, though, Marjorie suddenly has to deal with new and terrifying problems.
Sheriff Hilo Jenkins brings her a strange amulet, found clutched in the hand of her murdered neighbour, and asks her to quietly find out what it is. Marjorie uses all the skills she has developed as an indexer to research the amulet and look into the murders, but as she closes in on the killer, and people around her continue to die, she realizes that the murderer is also closing in on her.
An enjoyable read and initially a 4 from 5, but ever since I put it down there are certain parts of the book which the more I think about them, the more puzzled I become. Certain motivations and explanations for why our killer acts in a certain fashion are difficult for me to comprehend, though it is possible that they make perfect sense and during my reading I perhaps read parts on auto-pilot – mouthing the words to my brain, but not actually absorbing their significance. I’m sure it’s happened once or twice in the past. To elaborate may spoil things for others. (If anyone who has read it wants to chat off-line I’d be interested in finding out whether it was just me.) Motivation for the initial murders was understood and plausible, but certain aspects of how the killer behaved immediately afterwards don’t quite hang together for me, which sort of unravels the plausibility of the whole thing.
That said there was a lot to like about this one, not least the setting – North Dakota in 1964 and a small community rocked by a couple of savage murders. Our main character is Marjorie Trumaine. Trumaine is a neighbour to the murdered couple and gets asked by the sheriff to look at some evidence found in the hands of one of the murder victims.
Marjorie is married to Hank. The couple are childless and that situation isn’t about to change as Hank is now blind and paralysed after a hunting accident. Marjorie cares for him and despite the kindness of her neighbours is struggling to keep their farm from going under. Always a bookish person, she juggles the farm and Hank’s care with an indexing job for a New York publishing house. (I’ve never really considered before how indexes are compiled for books. Apparently the author himself works (or worked) as one.)
There were a few elements revolving around Norse Mythology, which if I'm honest were relevant in the context of the mystery and the ancestry of a lot of the community, but kind of passed me by.
The best part of the book for me was Marjorie and her relationships and inter-actions with various people within the book - Marjorie and Hank; Marjorie and her friend - Calla the librarian; Marjorie and her cousin – Raymond; Marjorie and Gus – the small-town faded sports star turned cop; Marjorie and her publisher employer. At times assertive, at times passive and a little too much of a doormat for my liking. It’s curious how we act and behave differently depending on the dynamics of different relationships.
I’d like to read more from the author and about Marjorie, though I’m kind of thinking Marjorie may possibly be a one-shot deal, as I’m not too sure that a second mystery with her at the heart would hold water – not unless the author did some drastic restructuring regarding her family relationships.
Blog friend, Tracy – over at Bitter Tea and Mystery reviewed it here. Tracy, I think enjoyed it a bit more than me.
Larry D. Sweazy has written lots more, including Westerns. His website is here.
Thanks to the publisher, Seventh Street for my copy of this one.