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Lethal Lineage by Charlotte Hinger

Lethal Lineage” is the second in the Lottie Albright Mystery series for Charlotte Hinger.

The theme, location and characters of this mystery is very appealing and different from anything else out there. The setting is a small town in western Kansas where Albright serves as the under-sheriff part time and the county historian part time.

Albright has been instrumental in bringing together Episcopalians in four counties to build a small church and the first chapter finds the brand new church full of congregants to celebrate the confirmation of Lottie’s niece, Tammy. There are so few priests to serve in the western part of Kansas that they recruited a couple of priests from outside the area. The woman priest recruited to help with communion has been a social worker in a neighboring town for several years, but few people know her well. The head celebrant is a very austere man who gives a really depressing fire and brimstone sermon to put a damper on the day.

Shortly after the service the Reverend Mary Farnsworth is found dead in a small side room with no windows or doors except one that would have been in sight of the whole congregation. No one went in or out except Mary shortly after she was upset by someone and managed to spill the wine all over the new carpet. When the Kansas Bureau of Investigation discovers that Reverend Mary was poisoned, Lottie and the Sheriff, Sam Abbott, zero in on the most likely suspects.

With the exception of a few typos, this is a beautifully written story. Hinger has a strong grasp on the people, traditions, and history of western Kansas, as well as the liturgy and practices within the Episcopalian church. Her words paint descriptive pictures of the stark and open landscape and the stalwart people who live in this sparsely populated part of the country.

Her characters are multi-faceted. She does not hide the warts in her characters’ personalities and relationships. Hinger establishes a very real relationship between Lottie and her husband, Keith. When Keith expresses his dismay that she constantly makes decisions that affect them both without checking in with him, and she ignores him, he gets even by signing on as a deputy sheriff without her blessing. They go around pouting for a day or two, but they eventually make up.

This is a series I will follow ardently with every new installment.

Liz Nichols

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