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Widow's Might by Sandra Brannan
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Aug 14, 2012

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Read from August 14 to October 05, 2012

As the third installment in the Liv Bergen mystery series, “Widow’s Might” is a strong, well-plotted suspense story that captures the Midwest subculture of the Black Hills of South Dakota, the site of the gold rush that followed General Custer’s expedition of 1874.

“Widow’s Might” picks up where the previous book left off: amateur detective Liv Bergen, having solved the murder of her would-be sister-in-law, finds herself drawn into another mystery; this one more than decade in the making. Ernif Hanson, an elderly rancher of the Black Hills, has been bludgeoned to death, making him the latest casualty of a serial killer known as the Crooked Man — who soon follows up that murder with an attempt on the life of Ernif’s widow, Helma, an 80 year-old woman dying of cancer, living out her last days in the devoted care of Liv’s sister, Elizabeth.

In addition to her sister’s connection to the case, Liv gets involved with the FBI through her new role as a bloodhound handler, as well as her attraction to the dreamy FBI agent Streeter Pierce. Yet she also finds herself drawn to agent Jack Linwood, and her confused feelings for the two men factor into her struggle with the decision to accept the FBI’s offer of joining them as an official agent.

Many a Midwestern reader will likely easily relate to Liv: an industrious country girl from a large, close-knit mining family, raised within a strong religious community. Indeed, religious themes have presence throughout the novel and the series as a whole. “Widow’s Might” refers to a story in the Synoptic Gospels, and the previous two books are entitled “In the Belly of Jonah” and “Lot’s Return to Sodom.”

Speaking of the previous books, reading this one independently is not recommended. Though readers new to the series will be able to follow the basic plot, they’ll likely be left confused by many a subplot, and may lack opportunity to connect with the characters before the action is set in motion. Also, as this one doesn’t provide a conclusion to the love triangle, those eager to see who Liv ends up with will have to wait for the next book, “Noah’s Rainy Day,” releasing in 2013.

With a fun, relatable cast of characters, an intriguing villain and a lesson on South Dakota mining history to boot, “Widow’s Peak” is a worthwhile read for mystery fans. Depending on how wide Brannan’s readership gets, her novels could even be responsible for making the Black Hills a more popular tourist destination, provided that there are no serial killers on the loose.

This review originally appeared in the High Plains Reader: http://hpr1.com/arts/article/murder_i...
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