Monday, July 21, 2014

Hell With The Lid Blown Off by Donis Casey

As much as I enjoyed Donis Casey's The Wrong Hill to Die On, Alafair Tucker seems out of place when she leaves her family behind in Boynton, Oklahoma. The latest mystery brings together Alafair's family and friends in an unusual format for Casey, but it works brilliantly. Different characters, even the victim, share their viewpoints of the events leading up to the tragedy that strikes Boynton and the surrounding countryside.

In June, 1916, a twister hits the community, leaving some dead and injured. The accounts are broken into "Before", "During", and "After" that tragedy. Trenton Calder, a deputy working for Scott Tucker, the local sheriff, kicks off the narration, saying Jubal Beldon was killed the same summer the tornado hit, so at first everyone thought he was a victim of the twister. It wasn't long before the mortician and sheriff realized he had been murdered. But, as Trenton, and a number of other people point out, no one liked Jubal Beldon, and no one was mourning his loss. Even as families struggled to pull their lives back together, the sheriff's small staff questions townspeople. Alafair Tucker might be dealing with births, injuries, and damaged homes, but she always has time to listen. And, it's those listening skills, honed as a mother of ten, that helps her zero in on the answers.

In this latest mystery, the author successfully juggles everyday life, the devastation of a tornado, and a murder investigation. As always, she manages to incorporate social history with the life of the town and the Tucker family. And, she vividly describes the fear as the storm approaches and hits, the devastation afterward. Trenton Calder says, "The ruination north of town was unbelievable. It was like hell with the lid blown off." But, even with all the devastation, the search for Jubal's killer goes on. The author realizes that the tornado has left destruction, but Jubal Beldon was a storm himself, one that tormented people, delighting in their secrets.

The format, the characters, and the storyline combine to make this one of Donis Casey's best mysteries. Her characters are ordinary people dealing with life in 1916 in Oklahoma, with rumors of war. At the same time, life goes on. There are picnics, hints of romance, family life and births, and murder.This time, she gives us a victim that even the reader grows to hate, one who delights in playing on intimidation and fear. He knows that "In a tight little town like Boynton, where everybody knows everybody else, rumor was as damaging as fact." And, he capitalizes on that. Then, when someone blows up, and a tornado hits in the same week, Alafair Tucker, her family and friends, are left to pick up the pieces when it all strikes like Hell With The Lid Blown Off.

Donis Casey's website is

Hell With The Lid Blown Off by Donis Casey. Poisoned Pen Press. 2014. ISBN 9781464202988 (hardcover), 228p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publicist sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.


Beth Hoffman said...

This one sounds good to me. Thanks for the recommendation, Lesa!

Lesa said...

You're welcome, Beth. It's one of the best of her books, and, with the style difference, you could read this one without reading any of the others.

Reine said...

Damn, what a great title!

Lesa said...

Isn't it? Donis has the best titles, right out of her Oklahoma family background.

Joe Barone said...

I had the same reaction to THE WRONG HILL TO DIE ON. I often don't like stories where the author takes familiar characters out of their usual places. Somehow the setting becomes a character too.

I too thought LID BLOWN OFF was one of Casey's best.

Lesa said...

Interesting, Joe, that we had the same reaction. And, even though I spent over eight years in Arizona, The Wrong Hill to Die On just wasn't as interesting as the Oklahoma books. I enjoyed the different format, and the storyline in LID BLOWN OFF.

Sunnymay said...

At first, I thought you were talking about the weather. Then, I realized it's the people and their convoluted and confounding relationships which is where the real story is.