A Stranger Here Below

Skyhorse. (Gideon Stoltz, Bk. 1). Mar. 2019. 272p. ISBN 9781510738508. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781510738515. M
DEBUT At 22, Gideon Stoltz is a little young to be sheriff of Colerain County, PA, in 1835. Because he's Pennsylvania Dutch, he's viewed as a foreigner, although he married a local woman. His only friend, and mentor, is Judge Hiram Biddle. So when Biddle is found dead from an apparent suicide, Gideon's lost and confused. Reading the judge's journals, Gideon wonders if his friend had been brooding about a hanging that occurred 30 years earlier. Mocked and jeered at, even by his in-laws, Gideon begins to ask questions about the local history. Despite warnings from his wife and the most powerful men in town, he stubbornly investigates. Then another murder occurs and two disreputable strangers convince the sheriff that the truth may lie in the past.
VERDICT With an atmospheric setting and strong sense of place, this leisurely paced historical mystery introduces a religious, reflective protagonist with a strong sense of duty and will be appreciated by readers who enjoy stories about the early development of the United States. The rich details of the experience and treatment of outsiders recalls Eleanor Kuhns's "Will Rees" stories.

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