Patricia Stoltey, The Prairie Grass Murders (2007)

This American Sylvia and Willie mystery is the first in the series, and I believe it is also the author´s debut.

Willie Grisseljon returns to his childhood environment in Illinois from sunny Florida, presumably ´to find out if the safe, comfortable places he remembered from his childhood still existed´, but instead he comes across a spiteful vulture which leads him to a black shoe.

“He reached out and gave it a sharp tug, but couldn´t pull it free. He let go, stepped back, and then stood very still. The shoe is most likely attached to a foot.”

As if this wasn´t enough, the local deputy thinks Willie is a confused vagrant and hands him over to a mental institution where he has to stay until his sister, judge Sylvia Thorn, can vouch for him.

Sylvia Thorn is a strong and independent woman of Norwegian descent, whereas her older brother Willie is a war-damaged poet. He may be an unlikely detective, but he is an interesting and unusual character who cares a lot about his sister in his own way. Besides, the well-written novel offers a strong sense of place and a fine sense of humour.

A small minus from me because the story is somewhat convoluted, and though I appreciated the fact that we never know whom to trust, it didn´t strike me as the most credible ending. Still I enjoyed the characters and the setting so much that I am determined to read the next volume to see what happens to Sylvia and Willie.

I bought the book myself.

About Dorte Hummelshøj Jakobsen

I am a Danish teacher. In my spare time I read, write and review crime fiction.
This entry was posted in American, Patricia Stoltey, review, review 2011. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Patricia Stoltey, The Prairie Grass Murders (2007)

  1. Petty Witter says:

    Hmm not too sure about this one. I couldn’t help but think of you at the mention of the black shoe though as it could have been a starting point for one of your stories in which we all get to add things – talking of which we haven’t had one of these for a while.

  2. Margot Kinberg says:

    Dorte – So glad you reviewed this one and liked it. I agree that the characters and setting are extremely well-done here. And I really like that sense of humour myself. I also really like the obvious bond between the siblings, as well as the way Stoltey weaves in some of their memories from growing up.

  3. p881 says:

    Hmmm. I like the setting but convoluted stories really irk me.

  4. I will read her next too. There was a scene under the porch that just made the book for me.

  5. Kelly says:

    The only thing I wonder about in your description is Willie being placed in the care of the mental institution and not allowed to leave. I didn’t think adults could be held against their will.

  6. Tracy: I suggest you come back tomorrow; I hope you will be pleased 🙂

    Margot: I agree; there are several strong points to this debut.

    p881: it wasn´t really difficult to follow the story, but after the first half which was extremely promising, the ending disappointed me a bit.

    Clarissa: I don´t recall that scene, but the brother and sister and their relationship were so well done.

    Kelly: there is no doubt it wasn´t legal, and it wasn´t for a long time, but I won´t tell you exactly how and why. You will have to read the book if you are curious 😉

  7. Dorte, thanks for the read and review. I had fun with the two Sylvia and Willie books…a bit of an experiment to see what writing a series is like. Although I may revisit these characters later on, I’m writing standalone suspense novels now and find them more challenging yet even more fun because I get to change characters with each book.

  8. Patricia: I am almost sorry to hear you have abandoned Sylvia and Willie – they are terrific characters.

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