Bring together an antagonistic family, a dying man, Aboriginal myths, and an isolated lodge, set them all down in the Top End of Australia, and you have Jeanne Matthews' debut, a traditional mystery called Bones of Contention.
Dinah Pelerin's wealthy American "Uncle" Cleon Dobbs is dying of cancer, so he called his large extended family together one last time, holding the threat of changing his will over their heads. With two ex-wives, and a current one, only Dinah's mother, out of the entire family, was smart enough to stay home. But, all of his children from three marriages showed up, along with Dinah, who loves Cleon, but wants to know the truth about her father's mysterious death. She arrives to find backstabbing relatives, trouble with everyone from the youngest children to Cleon, the oldest family member, and stories of a murder. It seems the poisonous snakes and trees aren't the only dangerous residents in the isolated community.
It shouldn't be surprising that another murder occurs, but that doesn't stop the family members from feuding. Cleon only adds to the fuel, fanning flames while he spreads suspicion, and introducing a new family heir to the mix. Dinah, the one family member with few expectations, is pressured by an unusual police inspector to keep him in the loop. It's too bad Dinah is so confused as to the realities of family dynamics.
Jeanne Matthews works with Aboriginal myths, ancestors and song-lines in her debut. She captures Australia's past and present, including current politics, but it's all background to the family mystery. Bones of Contention is a solid traditional mystery, complete with isolation, murder, and characters with all kinds of motives. Without giving his identity away, I'm hoping for a return of the surprising Inspector.
Note: Jeanne Matthews will be appearing at the Velma Teague Library for Authors @ The Teague on June 24 at 2 p.m. as part of the panel, Women Who Kill.
Jeanne Matthews' website is www.jeannematthews.com
Bones of Contention by Jeanne Matthews. Poisoned Pen Press, ©2010. ISBN 9781590587287 (hardcover), 316p.
FTC Full Disclosure - The author sent me a review copy, in hopes I would review it.