Tess works part time as a receptionist for Dani at the Crystal Mountain Spa near Buckneck, West Virginia (pop. 1000). When Dani decides to build an outdoor pool, excavation unearths female human skeletons, some old, some recent. Detective Tucker, an old acquaintance of Tess’s mother-in-law, arrives to solve the crime and Tess helps by keeping track of who and what goes on inside the Spa. She soon realizes she is in danger herself as more women are murdered.
We gather from snippets of backstory that Tess has recently been involved in helping to solve a previous murder case. Now she has a husband and toddler and is happier than she’s ever been. Will she risk her new life to help Detective Tucker or stay safe as Thomas prefers?
Apparently, Tess has dealt with her unhappy childhood (her mother is in prison on drug-related charges) with the help of her relatively newfound faith in God, and the solid support of the Spencer family.
Tess regularly visits her old friend, Miranda, in the nursing home, and keeps up with her best friend, Charlotte, Miranda’s daughter. But there is an undercurrent of danger at the nursing home too.
The story is written in the present tense, which makes it up-close and personal. It begins in medias res. The reader must pay attention to put all the initial pieces together, and it’s an interesting game. Trial by Twelve can be a stand alone novel, but it’s even more fascinating when you have read the first Murder in the Mountains book, Miranda Warning.
What caught my attention right off is the book’s format. Each chapter begins with an excerpt from a letter written by an unnamed man to his child, who is apparently in foster care. He speaks of his love, and promises to collect his child when he/she turns sixteen. Then they can hunt together. The bits of letter reveal an increasingly unhinged and dangerous man who eventually admits that he’s not made to be a father.
The author, Heather Day Gilbert, manages to throw suspicion on many of the characters in the book, leaving Tess more vulnerable than ever, and the reader wildly turning pages / tapping the screen. Great cliff-hanger chapter endings.
I read the ending of this novel last night before I went to sleep. It was tension-filled, answered the necessary questions, but kept me awake long after I had turned off the Kindle. I think that’s cause for another star in the ratings.
Besides the Murder in the Mountains books, Gilbert has written a historical fiction called God’s Daughter (A Vikings of the New World Saga Book 1), and Indie Publishing Handbook: Four Key Elements for the Self-Publisher. CLICK HERE.