cover image MacPherson's Lament

MacPherson's Lament

Sharyn McCrumb. Ballantine Books, $17 (260pp) ISBN 978-0-345-36576-7

Although billed as an Elizabeth MacPherson mystery, there is too little mystery and too little McPherson in this convoluted tale, which will please Civil War buffs more than mystery fans. Elizabeth's brother, Bill, a new lawyer, sets up shop in Danville, Va., with Amy Powell (A. P.) Hill, descendant of the southern general known by the same initials. The firm's first few cases aren't auspicious. Bill's mother hires him to secure her divorce from his father, and eight elderly women ask him to sell their mansion, the Home for Confederate Widows, so they can move into a nursing facility; meanwhile A. P. defends a man who bounces checks. The pace picks up when the body of a young woman is found in the trunk of A. P.'s client's car and a wealthy businessman from New York wants to buy the house very quickly. Elizabeth, who has been represented in letters sent from Scotland, finally flies home to help the fledgling attorneys. Interspersed is the tale of Civil War soldier Gabriel Hawks, who with a friend confiscates a part of the Confederate treasury. Although McCrumb ties the disparate threads together nicely, most mystery readers will wish for more suspense. (Nov.)