Murder on Old Mission

Written by Stephen Lewis
Review by Steve Lewis

To answer the question posed by your collective raised eyebrows first, no, the Stephen Lewis who wrote this novel is not me. He’s written five other mysteries in two previous series, but this is a standalone based on an actual incident that occurred in the mid-1890s on the Old Mission peninsula that juts into Michigan’s Grand Traverse Bay. The story Lewis tells is a dark affair, one that could be easily hidden in anyone’s black-and-white photo album of their ancestors. People were flesh-and-blood people then, and we tend to forget it; they had problems and worries in many ways not unlike the problems and worries that people have today.

Margaret Cutter is the charming but naive girl who is found dead, murdered perhaps by an older and twice-divorced lover. She is also pregnant, and Sam Logan’s only alibi is the word of his son, Isaiah, who also secretly loved the girl. It is Isaiah, therefore, who becomes the focus of the story. Is he willing to lie for his father? His father’s fate is in his hands.

The characters are extremely well drawn, but Lewis errs by placing his Author’s Note at the beginning of the novel, not the end. The true story is told first, followed by a detailed list of the changes he made for the sake of the story. With the outcome known in advance, all of the suspense is gone. It’s a handicap few authors could overcome, nor does Lewis manage to do so here, sad to say.