False Pretense, by Heather Day Gilbert (WoodHaven Press, 2022)
Missing persons, unexpected power flickers, and sightings of a creature from West Virginia folklore… except the huge grey Mothman is being seen by trustworthy witnesses. And the winged creature isn’t just a guy in a costume, because it flies. More troubling still, its appearance seems to coincide with the disappearance of two local women—women who look a lot like Tess Spencer.
Mysteries keep finding Tess. She’s solved three as an amateur sleuth, earning enough respect from the police in her small town that Detective Zeke Tucker has hired her as admin assistant. Sure, it’s a desk job, but Zeke values her insights on active cases.
As Tess begins to suspect this case may be personal, she’s also concerned about her mother-in-law’s health and the dirty politics being played by her husband’s rival. As readers of the series know, Tess isn’t one to allow anyone to mess with her family.
I’ve liked Tess from book one. She’s a smart, brave, loyal, self-reliant woman of faith. Since she lives in a state where it’s allowed to conceal-carry a weapon, she takes a handgun and sometimes a knife into danger.
I’ve always felt the woods are my native environment, a place I can be protected from the pressures of life. Now something—maybe some age-old evil, if I let my imagination run wild—has invaded our area. [Kindle location 539]
The mystery in False Pretense offers enough clues for readers to feel like we’re part of the investigation. I came up with a few ideas, but they were definitely off-base. Fans of the series will be glad to spend time with Tess and her family again, and will be hoping to finally learn the truth about the mysterious Axel Becker. And while this finishes the series, it left me wanting to go back and read again from the beginning.
Readers of the author’s Barks ‘n Beans mystery series will recognize a few mentions of those characters. I enjoy seeing nods like this to other fictional friends.
False Pretense is a satisfying finale to a mystery series filled with heart and truly likeable characters. If you’re new to the Murder in the Mountains series, you could start here without feeling lost. But I’d encourage you to start with book 1, Miranda Warning, and enjoy the development of characters and relationships through the full series.
Author Heather Day Gilbert writes contemporary mysteries and Viking historicals. To quote her bio on the Goodreads site, “She brings authentic family relationships to the page, and she particularly delights in heroines who take a stand to protect those they love.” For more about the author and her work, visit heatherdaygilbert.com.
[Review based on an advance reader copy provided by the publisher, because I couldn’t wait to read the copy I’ve preordered. My review is voluntary and my opinions are my own.]