Trial by Twelve, by Heather Day Gilbert (WoodHaven Press, 2015)
Despite her troubled past, Tess is thriving in the close-knit Spencer family. She’s a feisty, straight-talking (and straight-shooting) wife and mother, trying to supplement the family income. She’s not looking for trouble, but trouble finds her – this time in the form of skeletons found buried at the spa where she works. Newer deaths suggest the killer isn’t finished yet.
Tess nearly lost her life the last time she investigated a mystery, and with a young daughter, she’d rather stifle her curiosity and stay safe. Unfortunately, her boss needs her on-site, and the investigating detective asks her to be his eyes on the scene. He promises to do all he can to keep her safe – and then advises her to conceal carry a gun just in case.
This is a satisfying novel, where plot, characters and setting blend into a compelling read. Heather Day Gilbert knows how to keep readers turning pages. Tess is one of those rare-to-me characters I’d like to have as a real-life friend.
Most chapters open with a letter from a disturbing man to the child he left behind, who he’d trained in bow-hunting. If the man was the original killer, are the new deaths a second-generation event? His letters refer to Buddhism and various philosophers, but don’t let that put you off.
Set in the mountains of West Virginia, Trial by Twelve is a clean read, featuring Tess and her family as Christian characters but without the strong spiritual theme that is sometimes expected in Christian fiction. Here is Tess’ most overt thought on faith, comparing herself to her mentor, Miranda:
“I feel so inadequate in the face of her faith, but I know she’d tell me we each grow at our own speed and the point is to be growing.” [Kindle location 3072]
And an example of her sense of humour, which means no disrespect to the church prayer chain:
“Quite a few people have police scanners in these parts, to keep up with the local news. It’s a lot faster than the newspaper, but maybe not quite as lickety-split as the prayer chain.” [Kindle location 3001]
Trial by Twelve is book two in the A Murder in the Mountains series. I’m not sure if it’s stronger than book one, Miranda Warning (which I very much enjoyed) or if I feel that way because I’m getting know the characters better. Either way, bring on book three!
Heather Day Gilbert is also the author of the acclaimed Viking historical novel, God’s Daughter. A sequel, Forest Child, is in the works. For more about the author and her books, visit heatherdaygilbert.com. To read sample chapters from Trial by Twelve, click here.
[Review copy provided by the author.]