Historian Hunt’s first novel, winner of the 2011 Tony Hillerman Prize, revisits an unsolved real-life murder in 1930 Salt Lake City.
Someone was angry enough at socialite Helen Kent Pfalzgraf to run her over with her own Cadillac no less than seven times. Was it her long-suffering husband, Hans, a noted Utah obstetrician? His daughter, Anna, who says she adored her stepmother? One of the lovers Helen kept in thrall—perhaps local mining executive C.W. Alexander; Prince Farzad, the Persian suitor she met in Paris; or movie star Roland Lane, with whom she’d made a Hollywood screen test? Salt Lake County deputy Art Oveson, 29 and still struggling to emerge from the long shadow of his late father and his three older brothers, all of them in law enforcement, is smart, persistent, and willing to lie when he has to despite the strong Mormon faith that sets him apart from his hard-bitten partner, Roscoe Lund. He wonders how Helen’s murder might be linked to the hit-and-run accident that killed Dr. Pfalzgraf’s first wife or the death two years earlier of Dr. Everett Alvin Wooley, an abortionist Dr. Pfalzgraf had campaigned against. But he’ll have to contend with a paranoid, manipulative boss who’s ready to fire him on a moment’s notice if he’s to close a challenging case whose title (spoiler alert) turns out to be broadly ironic.
Hunt does a creditable job tying up all the loose ends the unknown killer left behind 80 years ago and an even better job evoking the time and place in which he lived.