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THE HIDING PLACE by Paula Munier: Book Review

Twenty years ago, the lives of three people in a small Vermont town were forever changed by an encounter in the Two Rivers Theater.  The first was Ruby Rucker, a former Las Vegas resident who was finding her husband George and her life in Lamoille County, Vermont, not much to her liking; the second was Thomas Kilgore, a general ne’er-do-well, drunkard, and wife-abuser; the third was Beth Kilgore, his beaten, frightened, and downtrodden wife.

In a very short time, all three would disappear.

In The Hiding Place, the third novel in the series, Mercy is called to the bedside of former deputy sheriff August Pitts.  Pitts was the partner of Mercy’s grandfather, Sheriff “Red,” and according to Mercy’s grandmother Patience, Pitts’ late arrival at a crime scene caused the sheriff’s death.  She’s never forgiven Pitts, even as he lies dying.

However, Mercy is curious about two things: what she might find in the boxes of materials labeled BETH KILGORE that Pitts gives her when she visits him and his request, which may have been his last, that she “find the girl.”  Patience tells Mercy the story of the unhappy Kilgore marriage and their disappearance from the town.  Thomas Kilgore’s family said the couple moved to California, but Beth’s father didn’t believe it.  However, he could never find any trace of Beth or Thomas, and he died without knowing what happened to his only child.

The past continues to push its way into Mercy’s life.  She’s told that George Rucker, the man who killed her grandfather, has escaped from prison and is believed to be heading to Vermont.  According to Rucker’s cellmate, he has been harboring a vendetta against Patience, Red’s widow,  and “she was going to pay for what she did.”

Patience is not cowed by this news, calling it “nonsense,” and she tells Mercy the story behind the death of her husband.  Then the two women hear a knock at the door.  Alerted by Elvis, the Belgian shepherd she has inherited from her late fiancé, Mercy tried to stop her grandmother from opening the door, but she’s too late.  A blinding flash and explosion follow.

The many threads in the novel seem separate at first, but they are, in fact, all related.  The missing Kilgores, the body of a biologist/ filmmaker found in the Green Mountain National Forest, the prison escapee, the strained relationship between Mercy and Game Warden Troy Warner, and even the unexpected appearance of a former soldier and friend of Mercy’s late fiancé who insists that Elvis was promised to him–all these strands come together and prove necessary to the solution of crimes both old and new.

Paula Munier’s latest entry in the Mercy Carr series is a worthy successor to the two previous ones.  The characters are real, the plot is suspenseful and moves at a rapid pace, and the connections between Mercy and the important people in her life are believable and convincing.  And the author’s love for the state of Vermont is palpable.

You can read more about Paula Munier at this website.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden Oldies, Past Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.

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