We all have secrets. We all have things in our family histories that we would rather not acknowledge. It is only the wealthy and powerful – those with more to lose – who will take drastic and desperate measures to ensure those things never come under public scrutiny.
Our protagonist is a middle-aged woman named Hannah Ives. Hannah wears many hats. She is a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a cancer survivor, and a records manager/archivist. Her beloved husband Paul, is a professor at the Annapolis, Maryland naval academy. Hannah and Paul have reached the point in their lives where they are contemplating retirement and want to purchase a retirement cottage near the water. After a real estate deal gone sour, they finally purchase a charming English cottage on the shores of Chesapeake Bay, Maryland.
Their ‘new’ cottage is an ancient dwelling built in the 1770s. Needless to say it requires extensive renovation. It is during this reno that the corpse of a tiny baby is found inside the chimney. It is this grisly discovery that sets Hannah on a quest to discover her identity. The repercussions of this quest lead to a murder and an attempted murder.
While settling into the small town where her cottage is located Hannah runs into Fran, a former boss. Now retired, Fran is interested in some long forgotten records recently discovered in the moldy basement of the town hall. She enlists Hannah’s aid and expertise in cleaning, sorting and evaluating the documents. They find property records, birth, death and marriage certificates etc. The women are blissfully unaware that there are those who would rather these records remain unread.
During the reading of this novel I learned some sordid facts about recent American history. How rampant racism was in Maryland as recent as the 1950s and 60s. For instance did you realize that it wasn’t until 1967 that mixed-race marriages were legal in all states?
“Daughter of ashes” is the fourteenth novel in the Hannah Ives series of mysteries and it is the first novel by Marcia Talley that I have read. Although the book alluded to past adventures, the fact that I had not read the previous thirteen novels in the series did not in any way mar my enjoyment of this one.
I would recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys contemporary, cozy style mysteries. A picturesque setting, an intelligent amateur sleuth and a well researched plot add to the enjoyment.
Marcia Talley is an Agatha and Anthony award-winning author. Her prize-winning short stories appear in more than a dozen collections. Marcia is national President of Sisters in Crime, Inc. She is on the board of the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the Mystery Writers of America, and a member of the Authors Guild. She divides her time between Annapolis, Maryland and living aboard an antique sailboat in the Bahamas.