Saturday, February 17, 2018

Rattlesnake Hill by Leslie Wheeler

After reading Leslie Wheeler's Rattlesnake Hill, you might not think of the Berkshires in Massachusetts in quite the same way. If you think of Tanglewood and vacations and fall foliage, you might not think of the dark side of the hilltowns. That's the atmosphere Wheeler captures so beautifully in this mystery.

Kathryn Stinson arrives in New Nottingham looking for the answer to a family mystery. Over a hundred years earlier, an ancestor brought the portrait of a beautiful woman with him to California. No one in the family knows her name, but Kathryn's Great Aunt Kit always wanted to travel to the town and find the answer. Now, with Kit gone, it's left to Kathryn to take up the search. However, the people of the town are secretive, sometimes rude, and they're certainly reluctant to let a stranger into their stories.

But, Kathryn is renting a house from a widower whose wife was recently shot to death. And, it seems Diana had been involved with Earl Barker, part of the infamous family known for handling rattlesnakes. Earl frequently shows up at Kathryn's house, to work for her landlord, and to brood over his dead lover. It's a story Kathryn finds as disquieting as the account she's slowly uncovering about the woman in the picture. The townspeople have stories about Earl and Diana. Once a ninety-year-old secret keeper points Kathryn in the right direction, Earl has a story to spin about the woman in the portrait, a woman once involved in her own romantic triangle. And, it's Earl's poetic storytelling that intrigues the inhibited Kathryn.

It's only to Earl that Kathryn reveals her own family secrets, ones that have made her afraid of men. But, Earl's obvious interest in the newcomer, and the hints left by that ninety-year-old woman, will lead Kathryn on a dangerous path.

As a fan of the hill stories of Sharyn McCrumb and Phyllis A. Whitney's romantic suspense novels, I was drawn to Rattlesnake Hill. Wheeler's vivid setting and strong sense of place is as atmospheric and essential to the story as the setting in McCrumb and Whitney's works. There's a haunting sense of foreboding in this first in a new series.

Leslie Wheeler's website is

Rattlesnake Hill by Leslie Wheeler. Encircle Publications. 2017. ISBN 9781893035812 (paperback), 306p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to review for a journal.


Kay said...

Well, you know, you kind of had me when you mentioned Phyllis Whitney. I loved her books, both adult and YA, and have been so happy to see some of them being released in ebook format. I was already thinking about reading this one, but I will definitely try it now. Thanks, Lesa!

SandyG265 said...

I’ve never read any of her books but I’ve been to the Berkshires so I’ll have to see if the library has this.

Lesa said...

Let me know what you think, Kay.

Always interesting to see what attracts people about a book, Sandy. Sometimes, it is because we recognize the setting as a place we've been.