Jess Mont­gomery re­turns with her lat­est his­tor­i­cal mys­tery novel

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Dayton Daily News - - LIFE - Vick Mick­u­nas

“The Hol­lows” by Jess Mont­gomery (Mino­taur, 343 pages, $27.99)

Our Lit­er­ary Life colum­nist Sharon Short is pub­lish­ing her sec­ond book this week in her new series writ­ten un­der the pen name of Jess Mont­gomery. “The Hol­lows” picks up right where the first novel, “The Wid­ows,” left off as her pro­tag­o­nist, Sher­iff Lily Ross, is about to plunge into an­other mur­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Mont­gomery imag­ined a fic­tional world in that first story that was in­spired by his­tor­i­cal facts. Her char­ac­ter Lily Ross is based in some ways upon a woman who really was a sher­iff in Ohio a cen­tury ago.

As that first book in the series be­gan, the sher­iff of a ru­ral county in south­east­ern Ohio is be­ing mur­dered. He was found dead in his au­to­mo­bile, leav­ing be­hind a wife and two small chil­dren. His wi­dow, Lily Ross, then as­sumes his role by be­com­ing the act­ing sher­iff and pro­ceeds to in­ves­ti­gate her hus­band’s killing.

This de­fi­ant act shocked some pow­er­ful men who as­sumed that Lily would merely serve as a fig­ure­head, a place holder un­til an­other man would be des­ig­nated for the po­si­tion. She was de­ter­mined to truly as­sume the du­ties that job en­tailed by find­ing the per­pe­tra­tors of the crime that left her a wi­dow. It’s only one of the gnarly tasks she tries to tackle.

As the sec­ond book, “The Hol­lows,” opens, Lily re­mains act­ing sher­iff and she’s cam­paign­ing to keep her job by win­ning the up­com­ing elec­tion on her own mer­its. This is the mid 1920s and she’s be­ing op­posed by a man who thinks Lily needs to go back to do­ing what he be­lieves a woman should be do­ing: rais­ing her chil­dren, cook­ing, clean­ing, and keep­ing her mouth shut.

Lily should prob­a­bly be think­ing about the elec­tion — per­haps bak­ing pies for ap­pear­ance’s sake? She gets com­pletely side­tracked by an in­ves­ti­ga­tion when an el­derly woman tum­bles down to her death from the top of a rail­road tun­nel.

Sher­iff Ross be­comes com­pletely wrapped up in solv­ing this mys­tery. Who was this woman? Was it sui­cide? Or mur­der?

Lily’s friend Hildy of­fers read­ers a com­pletely dif­fer­ent point of view of the pro­ceed­ings as the story un­folds. “The Hol­lows” is a mys­tery and a thriller and a ro­mance. It is a story about friend­ships; the re­la­tion­ship

What: A book sign­ing with Jess Mont­gomery for “The Hol­lows,” the sec­ond book in her Kin­ship his­tor­i­cal mys­tery series.

Where: Books and Com­pany at The Greene, 4453 Wal­nut St., Beaver­creek

When: Wed­nes­day, Jan. 15 at 7 p.m.

More info: 937 4292169 be­tween Hildy and Lily as well as the con­nec­tion be­tween Lily and the earthy Mar­vena, the other wi­dow of Mont­gomery’s series de­but, “The Wid­ows.”

The author’s ti­tle “The Hol­lows,” could be in­ter­preted on mul­ti­ple lev­els. Her fic­tional in­sane asy­lum in Athens bears that name.

Mont­gomery got the idea from the for­mer Athens Lu­natic Asy­lum which was known as “The Ridges.” Then there are the ubiq­ui­tous moun­tain hol­lows of the Ap­palachian to­pog­ra­phy. Fi­nally, there are the hol­lows within Lily’s heart, the grief she feels over los­ing her hus­band, as well as the ques­tion: Can those hol­lows ever be filled? You can sense it when a writer is really in the groove and has ab­so­lute con­fi­dence in her story. In “The Hol­lows” read­ers will find Jess Mont­gomery’s sto­ry­telling prow­ess in full bloom. En­joy.

Vick Mick­u­nas of Yel­low Springs in­ter­views au­thors ev­ery Satur­day at 7 a.m. and on Sun­days at 10:30 a.m. on WYSO-FM (91.3). For more in­for­ma­tion, visit www. wyso.org/pro­grams/booknook. Con­tact him at vick@ vick­mick­u­nas.com.

“The Hol­lows” by Jess Mont­gomery (Mino­taur, 343 pages, $27.99)

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