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The Kingdom Where Nobody Dies

On a stifling mid-summer day in 1951, eleven-year-old Claire Hofer descends from her perch in a pine tree and sets out to take lunch to her father, who's raking hay. As she nears the field, she hears no rumbling tractor and sees only an unfriendly-looking stranger scuffling through the stubble toward her. She turns and runs, but there is no escaping the troubles to come. The man is Township Constable John McIntire, and Claire's father is dead.  McIntire finds the crime baffling. Reuben Hofer had only lived in the old St. Adele Schoolhouse since early May; hardly long enough to make enemies. His family had little contact with anyone in the community save the Catholic priest and Doctor Mark Guibard, who'd been attending Hofer's chronically ill, morbidly obese wife. But Hofer was not exactly the newcomer McIntire had believed. During the war, he'd been incarcerated only a few miles away in a CPS camp---a camp for the rebellious conscientious objectors that the church-run institutions couldn't handle. The spotlight of a murder investigation causes greater misery for already devastated by misfortune and poverty. And McIntire confronts a fumbling nemesis in the bewildered and frightened, but determined, Claire. 

REVIEWS

 

PUBLISHERS’ WEEKLY

 

Hills's gripping fourth John McIntire mystery (after 2006's Witch Cradle) introduces the Hofer clan, who move to rural St. Adele, Mich., in the 1950s. When Reuben Hofer, an abusive father and husband, is shot dead in his tractor, town constable McIntire investigates and finds few who will miss Reuben. During WWII, Reuben spent time in a camp for rebellious conscientious objectors, not far from St. Adele. His extremely ill wife raised their children mostly on her own, only to have Reuben walk back into their lives and run the household like a prison camp. As word of Reuben's death spreads, strangers show up in town, as does Reuben's rigidly religious sister. Hills weaves her tale skillfully with a plot as richly textured as her Midwestern landscape. Her characters—untamed, reticent, lonely and proud—are exquisitely rendered in this postwar morality tale. (Jan.)
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KIRKUS

A newcomer to a rural Michigan community is shot dead while raking hay.The family Reuben Hofer leaves behind includes two downtrodden teenaged sons who are afraid of him; Claire, a dreamy, hardworking daughter, 11; his youngest child, Joey; and a morbidly obese wife who fears that her death will leave her children to Reuben's tender mercies. Reuben grew up in a utopian community, left it to marry, then landed first in a Civilian Public Service camp for conscientious objectors and subsequently in prison. His family's only contacts in the neighborhood seem to be their doctor and their priest. But when Reuben is killed, Township Constable John McIntire's investigation discloses that Reuben's wartime camp was surprisingly close to the little community and there are quite a few people in the area who knew him. While his wife is hospitalized, leaving Claire and Joey with a neighbor, the two older boys, along with Reuben's bossy sister, take the body back to be buried in the community where the sister still lives. In their absence, the house is broken into and trashed, and a shotgun goes missing. Indian artifacts that Reuben secretly dug up during the war may have been the motive for theft. Could they have prompted murder as well? Hills (Witch Cradle, 2006, etc.) slowly builds an enthralling portrait of life in a 1950s farming community. A distinctive and welcome addition to the genre.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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