Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Anything but Civil: A Hattie Davish Mystery by Anna Loan-Wilsey

It's Christmas Eve!  I had the chance to finish up a mystery that caught my eye earlier this week. It takes place in Galena, Illinois, which is about 1.5 hours away from where I live, and a place I've visited many times over the years. And...it takes place at Christmas! I'm still a bit surprised I found two random mysteries this month that have a Christmas theme. 

Anything But Civil is the second in the Hattie Davish series. I haven't read the first one, but it didn't seem to be too much of an issue. I probably will go back and read it eventually. Hattie is a young woman who is a traveling secretary, and she's in Galena, IL with Sir Arthur Winslow-Greene, an Englishman who has settled in the United States to study the American Civil War, which has been over for decades. He's hired Hattie to be his secretary on a visit to Galena (home of U.S. Grant) to interview his latest book topic: General Cornelius Starrett. Sir Arthur and Hattie will be spending the Christmas holiday in Galena, in a well appointed rental home perched above the Galena River, a tributary of the Mighty Mississippi. Everything seems to be going fairly well; until the arrival of the General's obnoxious and odious son, Henry Starrett. Henry is loud, boastful, and a veteran of the Civil War. He's out to harass a local man who was a copperhead during the Civil War, and whom Henry sees as a traitor. He makes no bones about his hatred for Jamison. 
Guests of Sir Arthur arrive at his home for the holidays, and they add to the mix of personalities and surprise! all of them also seem to have ties to the Civil War. When a supper at General Starrett's home ends with many of the guests (including Hattie) suffering from food poisoning, it looks like someone is out to get Henry. A few days later, Henry is found by Hattie in the park, beaten up and dead from a bullet to the chest. Oh, this is when things really start to get complicated. Sir Arthur's gun is missing, there's signs of a scuffle, and who would beat up Henry, then shoot him? It's up to Hattie to figure it all out and save Sir Arthur from a jail cell. 
I liked the cast of characters-each had a reason to see Henry dead. It's hard to figure out just who is guilty when Henry was the kind of man who created enemies everywhere he went. Hattie uses all of her detective skills to put together clues to try and figure out what happened, and the more she digs, the more she realizes whatever happened to Henry has roots stretching back to the Civil War. It's a complicated tangle of secrets that had me wondering just who was guilty up until the end. 
I thoroughly enjoyed this mystery. I wouldn't say it's a cozy mystery, but more like a tier above a cozy mystery. I loved reading about a familiar place-Galena. That's why I picked it up in the first place. Hattie is smart, resourceful, and makes a heck of a good detective. The mystery was pretty good, too. It had me wondering for most of the book how everyone and everything fit together. I'll be reading more of Hattie's adventures for sure. This series was published about 6-8 years ago, and I know there are at least 4 in the series. 
Rating: 4/6 for a solid murder mystery that had me trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together without success until the very end. Fans of historical mysteries will enjoy this series. 
Available in paperback and ebook. 

Wishing you all a wonderful Holiday Season and a Very Happy New Year!! Stay tuned for my Top Ten Favorite Reads of 2019...coming soon! 

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