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Past Imperfect by Kathleen Hills
Review by Carter Jefferson
Poisoned Pen Press Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 1590580079
Date: 15 June, 2002 List Price $24.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Despite discouragement from Bertelsen's doctor, and then from nearly everybody he knows, McIntire persists until he persuades the local sheriff that something is amiss. The town provides a wealth of suspects, but neither McIntire nor the sheriff can come up with a serious motive.

Set in the early 1950s, this novel unearths a tangled skein of relationships among the Swedes, Finns, Welsh, and other ethnic groups who settled in tiny St. Adele. On top of that, McIntire, who left in 1917 and returned only after World War II, finds Mia, the love he left behind, married to one of the prime suspects. Mia, marked by the loss of three children to early deaths, seems not to blame McIntire for his sudden disappearance, but she hasn't quite recovered from the hurt he left behind. Long accustomed to wandering to a derelict ski jump with a breath-taking view when she feels depressed, she is there, standing at the top, when she hears two voices below, but can't see who they are. When they leave, she descends to find another body, this one a girl involved with a teenage suspect in the Bertelsen case. McIntire's task is to discover how the crimes are connected, if they are, and then to sift through the many suspects to find the murderer.

The author's careful introduction of the town's citizens, from McIntire's English wife to the attorney handling Bertelsen's complex affairs and the friend who tended his orchard while he fished, lets us see the complexity of a small, isolated town in the days before television and the Internet. We hear stories of the far past, and learn about the economy of this little known area.

In this first novel, an ambitious effort, Hills gives us so much it's a bit hard to digest. The solution to the mystery makes good sense, but the large cast of characters makes the story complex, so the pace has to be fast. McIntire, a little lost in his old home town, has the potential to become a strong character as this series continues, but remains slightly enigmatic through this story, and the reader is left to wonder what will happen between him and Mia.

Hills writes well, and if you're pining for a look at a lost time and some unusual characters, this book will give you what you need.

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