The Kansas Bureau of Investigation is calling for a regional crime center for the western part of the state. Although their resources are stretched to the breaking point, Sheriff Sam Abbott, Undersheriff Lottie Albright, and her ranching husband deputy want no part of it. Neither do any of the other small towns in the area. When there's a gruesome murder at a livestock feedyard in Carleton County, the KBI agents think it may not be just a local affair. Lottie disagrees and calls upon her own skills as an historian to prove them wrong. If Sheriff Sam Abbott and his team can solve this murder, they can tell the bureaucrats to build their regional crime center elsewhere. But can Lottie deliver the goods?
Once again, Kansas history is what brings this book to life. Lottie learns that the murder victim is the great-grandson of Dona Francisca Diaz, the elderly head of one of the first groups to colonize the state. Dona Francisca insists that she knows why Victor was killed, and that the key to the murder can be found in ancient documents. A famed curandera with horribly crippled hands, Dona Francisca invites Lottie to their lush property and insists that she wants to train Lottie as the heir to her legendary cures. Although Lottie is extremely reluctant to do so, she sees this as a once-in-a-lifetime chance for incredible knowledge... and for the chance to solve a murder.
Solving crimes through old documents, ephemera, and stories has always fascinated me, and that's why Charlotte Hinger's Lottie Albright books have become one of my favorite series. Sure enough, the history and legends surrounding the Diaz family and their property grabbed hold of my interest and didn't turn it loose, but two other components were a bit lacking in this third book. The mystery was very slow-paced, almost plodding in places, and Lottie's family dynamics which have set off so many sparks in the first two books are a bit lackluster here.
Despite that, I still found the book to be very enjoyable. I have a button here at my desk that proclaims HISTORY MATTERS-- and it does. Seeds that were sown long ago can germinate and take hold down through generations. Families can have prejudices and yet have no clue that those prejudices had their beginnings eight generations in the past. Hinger understands this and shows us how to tease the answers out into the light of day. It's a process of which I never tire. I look forward to the next book in this series and hope that Lottie regains the spark she was lacking in this book.
Hidden Heritage by Charlotte Hinger
Poisoned Pen Press © 2013
Paperback, 250 pages
Amateur Sleuth, #3 Lottie Albright mystery