“The Hollows” by Jess Montgomery follows the characters from her first novel, “The Widows,” as Lily Ross, sheriff after the murder of her husband who was the sheriff, and her friend Marvena Whitcomb deal with the murder of an elderly woman, which has possibly deadly implications for those who are trying to find the truth.
Hildy Cooper, a peripheral character in the first book, is much more important in this one. She helps Lily with the investigation of the death of the elderly woman, who had been living in The Hollows Asylum. Was her death an accident, or did someone push her in front of the train?
At the same time, a union organizer is trying to integrate the coal mines and there are many, in this area of Ohio, who are dead set against integration. In fact, when a women’s Ku Klux Klan starts up, Lily has more on her hands to investigate. When she finds out that the dead woman is Thea Kincaide, whose father was an abolitionist who was killed in suspicious circumstances years ago, the mystery deepens.
Lily is still grieving the loss of her husband, trying to run for reelection, and working to solve the murder. She needs the help of her friends. For readers who read the first novel in the series, it’s a lovely chance to catch up with these people after a year has gone by. We learn that Tom, Marvena’s brother, is in love with Hildy. But she is engaged to Merle, who owns the grocery store that Lily’s father owned before he was killed while trying to save workers after a mine collapse. Will Hildy stay with Merle, whom she does not love but who promises security and respectability, or choose Tom, a miner, whom she loves?
There is a lot going on in this action-filled novel, but it’s all engagingly written, and once begun, it’s difficult to put down. The new characters work well with the characters we already know and whom we get to know better in this novel.
Prejudice, love, greed, segregation, power and loss all run through the pages of this story as surely as the coal runs through the mountains in which the coal miners slave. And while the women of the novel have the right to vote (it’s 1926), in most other ways they have few rights. This would be a book worthy of discussion for a book club, but it’s also just a really good book for reading to encourage thoughtful introspection. Try to read “The Widows” first, but this one can certainly stand on its own.
Please note: This review is based on the advance readers’ edition provided by Minotaur, the publisher, for review purposes.