Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Wrong Hill to Die On by Donis Casey

I always look forward to catching up with Alafair Tucker and her family in Donis Casey's
mysteries. I'm just catching up. And, The Wrong Hill to Die On might be a historical mystery set in 1916, but some of the problems in Arizona could have been ripped from today's headlines. Casey excels at storytelling, and she combines several storylines in this book.

Alafair Tucker is a farm wife in Oklahoma, where she and her husband, Shaw, have a large family, ten and growing as the older daughters marry. But, 1915/1916 brought rain, floods and illness. Most of the family recovered, but ten-year-old Blanche couldn't seem to shake her sickness, and the doctor recommended a warmer climate. Shaw and Alafair left the farm in the capable hands of their oldest children, and made the difficult train trip to Tempe, Arizona to stay with Alafair's younger sister, Elizabeth. Their arrival is news for just a short time. There are more exciting things for the townspeople to talk about.

And, after the Tuckers have a couple days to recuperate, Elizabeth throws a party so they can meet everyone. The party is overshadowed by the news that Pancho Villa has invaded New Mexico and set fire to a town before being chased back across the border. Feelings are running high against Mexicans. So some people are not surprised when Alafair finds Bernie Arruda's body in a ditch the morning after the party. Did racism play a part in his murder? Or, did Bernie's flirtatious ways finally anger a husband? Although Alafair plans to stay out of this investigation, Shaw knows she'll be as curious as always.

Donis Casey's mysteries are always fascinating, incorporating family life, cultural history, and history. This one, set in 1916, deals with racial issues, unrest involving Pancho Villa, Mexicans, and General Pershing, the shadow of war in Europe, and the roles of women. Casey spins a story of murder and secrets involving an Arizona community dealing with issues that still face the state today. But, she always grounds the story solidly with Alafair Tucker, a strong woman supported by the love of her husband and family. 

And, as good as The Wrong Hill to Die On was, I was as pleased to see Alafair and Shaw return home as their family was. Now, I'm ready to catch up with all the family in the new book, Hell with the Lid Blown Off.

Donis Casey's website is

The Wrong Hill to Die On by Donis Casey. Poisoned Pen Press. 2012. ISBN 9781464200441 (hardcover), 328p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I've had an ARC since 2012, and only now picked it up. The publisher sent it to me.

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