A decades-old murder haunts the lives of a young couple with a connection to the victim.
In this debut novel, justice is swift in the rough-and-tumble mining town of Madrid, New Mexico, at the turn of the 20th century. When Chandler Pruitt, the universally disliked mining supervisor, is shot to death, Margaret Connelly, a beautiful young widow, is quickly executed for the crime, though the evidence of her guilt is by no means convincing. The unfortunate events happened long ago, but they still haunt Louise Devereaux, who lived in Madrid as a child. Now elderly, she’s written a memoir that includes her recollections of the case. When she shows up at Langley Publishing attempting to sell her book, editor Alan Kinsley is prepared to give her the polite brushoff. But something about the woman and her story captures his attention, and he decides to investigate further. On a vacation to the Southwest with his wife, Beth, Alan tries to get to the truth, digging through old records and interviewing the handful of people still alive who remember the incident. When he discovers that both he and his wife have ties to the killing, it threatens to upend their marriage. Turk’s story explores the consequences of family secrets and the ways the past sometimes rudely forces its way into the present. While the book relies a bit too heavily on a convenient coincidence to bring its characters together, the tale itself is engaging, and it’s easy to see how Alan could get caught up in solving this mystery. Louise is a spitfire with moxie, while the aging residents of Madrid provide colorful commentary on past events. But the depiction of a Native American woman who is also tied to the murder is straight out of an old Western, and not in a good way. The novel drags at points too, with Alan and Beth repeatedly discussing a side trip to Alamogordo that never takes place and intriguing, but largely irrelevant, anecdotes about local history distracting from the larger narrative. The book is at its best when it stays focused on Margaret, Chandler, and the others involved in their tragic tale.
A charming historical novel hampered by an uneven pace.