Nikki's Reviews > The Winter Widow

The Winter Widow by Charlene Weir
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Apr 28, 09

bookshelves: a-mystery-for-every-state-project, fiction, mysteries, books-set-in-kansas
Read in April, 2009

I've been doing a project to read a mystery by an author new to me from every state in the Union. Since I'd already read lots of Nancy Pickard's books, I couldn't "count" The Virgin of Small Plains for my Kansas book. So I chose Charlene Weir's first Susan Wren novel, and I'll definitely be looking for more.

The book opens with a Kansas police chief investigating -- what? We aren't sure, and then he is murdered. We then learn that he's only been back from his honeymoon for 10 days, and that his new wife is a former San Francisco detective whom he swept off her feet at a police conference. She's already enduring culture shock living in a small city in Kansas (I'd say small town, but it's evidently bigger than Small Plains in Pickard's book). Now her parents want her to come back to San Francisco, her sister-in-law is pressuring her to sell the half of the family farm she's just inherited, and the mayor asks her to be interim police chief -- and find her husband's killer. She plunges into the job and soon finds that she's dealing with a lot of stuff she never saw in SF -- pigs on the loose and giant bulls among them -- but also that greed, drug dealing, and general criminality exist just as much in small towns in Kansas as in big city California. Welcome touches of humor enliven what might otherwise be a too-grim story.

Occasionally in this book, Susan Wren is guilty of actions which some might term "too stupid to live," but her state of grief and a prickly relationship with one of her detectives, in addition to issues with her father, a high-powered attorney, go a long way to explain them. There are great characters in this book, such as Sophie the cat lady and Susan herself. It's a very good first novel, gives a fine picture of the land, economy and people of Kansas, and I look forward to reading more of the series.
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