Loni Mae Murrow escaped the stifling confines of her home in northern Florida and went north. Now thirty-six, she works for the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum as an artist in their ornithology department. She likes her life in Washington, D.C. and she loves her work.
When her younger brother calls to say that her mother is likely suffering from early onset dementia, he pleads with her to come home and help. Loni has never really been close to her mother since the mysterious death of her father when Loni was twelve and her brother only a baby. But a sense of familial duty sees her requesting a leave of absence from work and she journeys south – and home.
Once home, Loni helps her brother and his wife to clear their mother’s house of her belongings as she is now living in a nursing home. Loni discovers some old notebooks which cause her to think more about the circumstances surrounding her father’s death. He drowned on the marsh he patrolled regularly as a Wildlife Officer. The official report declared it to be an on the job accident. Whispers and innuendo hinted that he might have taken his own life. But could the death have been murder?
This was a stellar debut novel which makes me excited to read more of this author’s work. It is evocative of one of my favorite novels “Where The Crawdads Sing”, yet it retains its own uniqueness and has more of a crime fiction vibe.
The characters are vividly portrayed as is the Florida marsh and its inhabitants. The authors love of the natural world shines through, as does her obvious love of books. Her eloquent descriptions of the marsh and the birds transports the reader so that you can almost feel the humidity and hear the wildlife.
The book slowly progresses to the reveal of what really happened that fateful day when Loni’s father died. This only after Loni encounters some threatening warnings and not a little danger.
With themes of familial duty, the value of honesty, and the long lasting repercussions of abandonment and loss, this is a crime novel with literary overtones. Highly recommended!This review was written voluntarily and my rating was in no way influenced by the fact that downloaded a complimentary digital copy of this novel from Gallery Books via Edelweiss.
Publication date: Sept. 6, 2022 Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon and Schuster
Virginia Hartman has an MFA in creative writing from American University and is on the faculty at George Washington University. Her stories have been shortlisted for the New Letters Awards and the Dana Awards. The Marsh Queen is her first novel. Find out more at VirginiaHartman.com