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by Kathleen Hills
Poisoned Pen Press, December 2007
344 pages
ISBN: 1590584767

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Constable John McIntire doesnít particularly want to be working very hard. Itís hot out, he misses his wife, and heís probably clinically depressed. But itís sometime in the 1950s and men just didnít get depressed back then Ė or if they did, nobody called it that. So Johnís been moping around, letting the garden go to hell, and resting a lot. Reuben Hoferís death changes all that.

Reuben Hofer and his family have been farming out at the old St Adele schoolhouse since May, which isnít all that long ago. So whoís got a big enough mad on to shoot Reuben while heís haying? McIntire plays the odds and looks to Reubenís wife Mary Frances. He quickly sees that Mary Frances probably canít walk from the house to the barn without serious medical consequences. Sheís a very large woman. Her daughter Claire does a lot of the physical work that Mary Frances canít do; Claire is 11 and wiser than her years in some areas but not in others.

As McIntire investigates, he finds that Reuben isnít a stranger to the area. He spent most of the recent war in a Civilian Public Service camp nearby, the result of his conscientious objector status. The camp wasnít the most secure place in the world; residents could spend time in town and Reuben did. He had some kind of relationship with a woman who now owns a beauty parlor. He was a friend with at least one of the guards. Both the guard and the woman are still around and may have engaged in some kind of illegal activity with Reuben.

While Reuben was gone, the rest of his family spent their time in a religious community, where their lives were structured but fairly secure. Reubenís return changed all that, and changed the dynamics within the family. He was a man of rules and order, with consequences for failure.

Claire seems determined to hinder McIntire at every turn. Heís bewildered by this, and does his best to find out what he can from her and from the rest of the family.

THE KINGDOM WHERE NOBODY DIES is a police procedural in a very broad sense, and still almost a cozy in tone. McIntire has his own personal demons to battle. Claireís battles seem enormous to her, as events so often do in childhood; those around her try their best to help, although she is not always appreciative of their efforts.

This is the fourth in Hillsí series about McIntire, all set in a rural area of Michigan. She writes well, especially about the kinships and secrets that simmer below the surface in small towns. Her ability to show us the world from the viewpoint of an 11-year-old is exceptional.

Reviewed by P. J. Coldren, December 2007

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