In addition to the fact that Lily Ross is still grieving her husband's death, she has children, a demanding job, and an upcoming election to deal with as well. Called out in the middle of the night about an elderly woman who was hit by a train. Accident, suicide, or murder?
Determined to find out who the woman was and where she came from leads to a number of secrets past and present, events and connections that a number of people would prefer to ignore. Politics, racism, and sexism all play a role in the 1926 small town.
I had not read the first novel The Widows, but my interest and appreciation grew as I continued reading. Character-driven, yes. Good mystery, yes. Setting that feels genuine, yes. The Widows now on my list, yes.
It wasn't until I finished reading the novel, that it dawned on me that all of the important characters were women, which made me curious about the number of female sheriffs and made me think of the Bechtel test.
The Bechdel test (// BEK-dəl), also known as the Bechdel–Wallace test, is a measure of the representation of women in fiction. It asks whether a work features at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man. The requirement that the two women must be named is sometimes added.About half of all films meet these criteria, according to user-edited databases and the media industry press. Passing or failing the test is not necessarily indicative of how well women are represented in any specific work. Rather, the test is used as an indicator for the active presence of women in the entire field of film and other fiction, and to call attention to gender inequality in fiction. Media industry studies indicate that films that pass the test financially outperform those that do not.
The test is named after the American cartoonist Alison Bechdel in whose comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For the test first appeared in 1985. Bechdel credited the idea to her friend Liz Wallace and the writings of Virginia Woolf. After the test became more widely discussed in the 2000s, a number of variants and tests inspired by it emerged. (Source)
and this quote from Virginia Woolf in "A Room of One's Own":
All these relationships between women, I thought, rapidly recalling the splendid gallery of fictitious women, are too simple. ... And I tried to remember any case in the course of my reading where two women are represented as friends. ... They are now and then mothers and daughters. But almost without exception they are shown in their relation to men. It was strange to think that all the great women of fiction were, until Jane Austen's day, not only seen by the other sex, but seen only in relation to the other sex. And how small a part of a woman's life is that ... Source (high light mine)
Two women inspired the author's characters. Maude Collins (the inspiration for Lily Ross) and Mary Harris Jones (although Marvena's character is less educated than "Mother Jones") --two women who broke barriers in law enforcement and activism.
I was working on this review when I saw Cathy's review yesterday, so I will skip the plot and point you to Cathy's blog. :)
NetGalley/St. Martin's Press
Historical Mystery. Jan. 14, 2020. Print length: 352 pages.