First Line: Week before last, cold shooed warmth into a wish and a memory, then rattled tree limbs to leaflessness with one gnarly hand, while gripping the earth with the other.
In the rural Ohio of 1927, moonshining is a way of life, and Sheriff Lily Ross has been known to turn a blind eye... until thirteen-year-old Jebediah Ranklin almost dies from drinking tainted moonshine. Someone has gone too far, and Lily is determined to find out just who it is.
When Lil's nemesis, George Vogel arrives in town with his wife Fiona and Lily's former brother-in-law Luther Ross (now an agent for the Bureau of Prohibition), the sheriff of Kinship knows that it is too much of a coincidence.
As fall turns to winter, Lily works to pull back layer after layer of secrets and deceptions... and she begins to realize that newly married Fiona Vogel may have an agenda of her own.
Author Jess Montgomery continues her marvelous Kinship series with a look at Prohibition in The Stills. There are two main voices in the book: that of uncompromising Sheriff Lily Ross, a woman who refuses to have a photo of her family hanging in her office because she "doesn't need to remind some folks that they think [she] should be at home," and Fiona Vogel, a woman who's gone along with the accepted ole of women in society but who has decided that "she wants to be in control of her life. To thrive."
The Stills is a nuanced portrait of an era with strong characters who show readers how people dealt, not only with Prohibition, but also with diseases like diabetes and asthma. The role of women in society looms large with the differing approaches of Lily and Fiona. Lily is a straight shooter. She pulls no punches, and her friends know that she will uphold the law regardless the identity of the law breaker. Buffeted by smaller stones and other debris, Lily is a boulder in the river that the water is forced to go around. Fiona is a bird feathering her nest with every little advantage and trick she can gather in the hopes that she can construct a safe place to live. While Fiona hasn't had much luck with men and wants a life where she can ignore them completely if she should choose to do so, Benjamin is a man in Lily's life who seems to like her just as she is. This is a relationship that should prove interesting in future books.
I always learn something when reading one of Montgomery's Kinship mysteries. In the case of The Stills, it was Prohibition and disease as well as a fascinating historical personage of whom I'd never heard: U.S. Assistant Attorney General Mabel Walker Willebrandt, who was known as "the First Lady of Law." People who believe that they can't learn anything from reading mere fiction are sadly misinformed.
The Stills-- as well as the other two Kinship mysteries The Widows and The Hollows-- is a splendid portrait of a time, a place, and the strong women who forged lives for themselves in it. If you haven't read these books, I urge you to do so. Begin at the beginning with The Widows. You can thank me later.
The Stills by Jess Montgomery
Minotaur Books © 2021
eBook, 320 pages
Historical Mystery, #3 Kinship mystery
Source: Net Galley