A STRANGER IN THE KINGDOM by Howard Frank Mosher


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Mosher, author of three books (Marie Blythe, Disappearances, Where the Rivers Flow North) all set in Kingdom County in northernmost Vermont, here offers a coming-of-age family saga that develops into a courtroom drama--a compelling narrative once it gets going. James Kinneson, at the time of the action, leisurely narrates the tale. His father is a newspaperman in Kingdom County, ""a good but eminently improvable place, where the past was still part of the present,"" and his brother Charles is a lawyer. After much vivid regional color and some family history (important eventually to the plot), the black Presbyterian minister Walt Andrews arrives in town with his son Nathan. After more regional color and foreshadowing (cockfights, Charlie in court, Old Home Day celebration, prejudice on the softball team), Resolved Kinneson's mail-order bride Claire comes to town from Canada. Resolved is an outlaw cousin of the family who, along with his off-balance brother Elijah, drinks and slops through life. He has lured Claire to town with a snapshot of hand. some Charles. In short order, Claire (some locals think she's a prostitute) flees to Charles and then to the minister, who protects her in a confrontation with the outlaw branch of the Kinnesons. When Claire disappears and turns up dead, The Affair begins: Minister Andrews is accused of her murder, and Charles defends him. After a lot of courtroom drama (and melodrama), the minister is cleared, and some family business is settled (Mad Charlie Kinneson, an abolitionist, killed his best friend Pliny Templeton long ago, and Elijah, to protect that secret, tried to frame the minister). James fast-cuts then 20 years--to his vantage point as an adult following in his father's footsteps--and sums up the whole business. A stubbornly regional novel, vivid in place and character, uneven in plotting but with a resounding, satisfying payoff.

Pub Date: Oct. 23rd, 1989
Publisher: Doubleday