cover image The Widows

The Widows

Jess Montgomery. Minotaur, $26.99 (336p) ISBN 978-1-250-18452-8

Montgomery’s deeply felt debut, set in hardscrabble Appalachian Ohio coal-mining country in 1925, centers on two determined women on opposite sides of the law—Lily Ross, a sheriff’s wife, and moonshiner and union organizer Marvena Whitcomb, a miner’s widow—who are based on a pair of formidable historical figures, Maude Collins, Ohio’s first female sheriff, and activist Mary Harris “Mother” Jones. Only six months after the disastrous cave-in at a mine managed by Bronwyn County sheriff Daniel Ross’s ruthless half-brother, Luther, who has hired head-cracking Pinkertons to keep his increasingly mutinous workers in line, Daniel’s shocking murder—allegedly at the hands of a miner—thrusts secretly pregnant mother of two Lily into the crossfire as acting sheriff. As Lily starts to investigate her husband’s killing, she swiftly discovers a lot that doesn’t add up, as well as some of his carefully guarded secrets, among them his connection to Marvena. Some of the plot twists prove more surprising than convincing, but the feisty female protagonists do their real-life foremothers proud. Agent: Elisabeth Weed, Book Group. (Jan.)