Widow's Might by Sandra Brannan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I haven't read the first two Liv Bergen books, but that doesn't seem to matter all that much in terms of getting into the series. As far as I can tell, the action in the first two takes place a mere month - or less - before this book, with the immediate predecessor covering a mere few days earlier. That did make it a little difficult getting started, as you have to figure out what exactly is happening and who is who (cold starts that assume you've read the previous book aren't my favorite; this one is better than most).
This smallish town in the Black Hills of South Dakota is really overrun with killers, it seems. Here we meet the Crooked Man, a serial killer with a ten-year history of one murder per year. Liv's sister, Elizabeth, interrupts his latest attempt, and Liv's involvement with the FBI over the past couple of cases (and Agent Pierce's desire that she join them, issuing an invitation to interview for a position and undergo training at Quantico) means that she's in the thick of this one. The FBI team includes Bly (who is mostly working the Sturgis Rally), Linwood (laconic and good-looking) and Jenna Tate (gorgeous, flirtatious and intimidating), all interacting with Liv as though she's already a junior member of the team. Her knowledge of the people, places and history of the Black Hills is helpful to their investigation, as is her connection with Beulah, the mantrailing dog she will soon (they hope) be working with full-time for the FBI.
Without giving away too many spoilers, the Crooked Man killer is involved, somehow, with Nature's Way, an environmental group that wants to prevent development of the old homesteads, preserving the land for animals and the future. There's a wonderful scene at a hearing on limiting easements, rather than leaving them as a perpetual fact - the differing sides of the argument are treated fairly. There's also a close tie to Custer, he of the Last Stand and the lesser known 1847 Expedition in the Black Hills.
The milieu and the characters are interesting, as is the Crooked Man. What made this a 3 was that the FBI team did crack the code behind the killings and their motivation, yet there's still a very long scene between him and Liv with her trying to stave off his attack on her by asking "why" and him going into several pages of justification and gloating. Sigh. It was repetitive, given the FBI's work, and I always hate that scene. I found it also difficult to believe Liv's insecurity and hesitance, particularly given her assistance with the previous cases.
ARC provided by publisher.