cover image The Stills

The Stills

Jess Montgomery. Minotaur, $27.99 (352p) ISBN 978-1-250-62340-9

When a 12-year-old boy, who’s been hired to supervise a moonshiner’s still, witnesses a man shoot and injure a Bureau of Prohibition agent at the start of Montgomery’s provocative, if flawed, third novel set in 1920s Kinship, Ohio (after 2020’s The Hollows), Sheriff Lily Ross investigates. Meanwhile, Fiona Vogel returns to her aunt and uncle’s farm in Kinship with her powerful bootlegger husband, George, and several of his yes-men, including Lily’s estranged brother-in-law, Luther Ross. To Lily’s surprise, Luther visits her office and presents himself as a Prohibition agent. While Lily questions Luther’s true motives, Luther warns her of George’s potential plans to bring his bootlegging business to the farm. Though Lily can’t raid the farm due to a lack of evidence, Fiona sends her a tip that George’s alcohol could have been swapped with toxic wood alcohol. When Luther’s badly beaten body is found with a snakebite wound and the coroner insists the snakebite killed Luther, Lily senses that something doesn’t add up. Richly fleshed-out characters compensate only in part for a surfeit of repetitive backstory. Fans of historical mysteries featuring strong female leads may be satisfied. Agent: Elisabeth Weed, Book Group. (Mar.)