Hell with the Lid Blown Off: An Alafair Tucker Mystery

Written by Donis Casey
Review by Joanne Dobson

It’s 1916 in Boynton, Oklahoma, and for Alafair Tucker life pretty much follows her “guiding philosophy… that there is always room… for one more child.” And that’s what she’s about to get in the person of Trent Calder, Deputy Sheriff, who loves her daughter Ruth. Casey provides multiple third-person narrators, but it is Trent, the single first-person narrator, who opens and closes the novel and provides guidance and structure for both the murder investigation and the narrative itself.

When a brutal twister strikes Boynton, Jubal Beldon, the snake in this Oklahoma Eden, is found dead in the wreckage with a puncture wound in his thigh. That lethal wound could have been made by wind-blown debris, “or it could be somebody slipped a blade into his leg.” And thus whirlwind and murder collide.

I loved this book; it’s as much a saga of an American community under great natural and personal stress as it is a mystery novel. And that saga of disaster is so well detailed and comprehensively recited that it feels at one and the same time as if it were ripped from today’s headlines and related as a myth from the deepest heart of our history.