Book of the Day

2020 Silver Falchion Nominee

Hemlock Needle
By Keenan Powell
Level Best Books
ISBN 978-1947915091
Publication Date: January 2019
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Hemlock Needle

Review by Joy Gorence

The cold and isolation of Anchorage, Alaska provides the backdrop for Keenan Powell’s captivating novel, Hemlock Needle.  The narrative centers around the disappearance of Esther Fancyboy, the mother of Evan.  At a Yup’ik gathering during the Christmas holidays in Anchorage, Esther tells her son, Evan, that she will be right back before she walks out into the cold winter weather. She does not return. Three days later, Cora, her mother, seeks the help of Maeve Mallory to locate her daughter.

Cora and Maeve share a history, and when the police refuse to consider the seriousness of Esther’s disappearance, Cora seeks Maeve’s assistance.  Although Maeve is in danger of losing her license to practice law, she agrees to help Cora. The author provides an explanation for the lack of police concern based on a cultural bias that provides an undercurrent for the conflicts in the story. With the help of Tom Sinclair, a friend and investigator, Maeve becomes involved in more than a mere missing person enquiry. Fighting the elements of both a harsh winter and personal demons, Maeve refuses to surrender to defeat.

Keenan Powell masterfully combines the atmosphere of the times with the elements of a true suspenseful novel. Although she does not provide the warmth of a fireside tale, she does dig into the injustices of society and reveals the dark side of humanity alongside the resilience of the human spirit.

Joy Gorence is new to Killer Nashville.  She is an author, world-traveler, English professor (ret.), and avid reader.  Originally from Long Island, NY she now lives in South Florida with her husband, Bill and their two pampered kitties.