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The Widows by Jess Montgomery

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Set in Vinton County in the southeastern Ohio coalfields in the 1920s, the protagonist of this novel is Lily Ross, inspired by Maude Collins, Ohio’s first female sheriff and the only one to serve as an Ohio sheriff for over fifty subsequent years. To investigate her husband’s murder in the line of duty as the previous sheriff, Lily Ross turns to Marvena Whitcomb, whose husband has just been killed in the mines. This character, a union activist, was partially inspired by Mother Jones. The Widows is the first novel of Jess Montgomery who grew up in Ohio nurtured by an Eastern Kentucky family and now covers literature for the Dayton Daily News and is the Executive Director of the Antioch Writers Workshop in nearby Yellow Springs "In the hard-luck, homespun Appalachian town of Kinship, Ohio, in 1924, two strong women become unlikely comrades to solve a murder in this flinty, heartfelt mystery that sings of hawks and history, of coal mines and the urgent fight for social justice."―Julia Keller. "The Widows is the story of a community in crisis: the Pinkertons are waging war against miners and the law, and no one is safe from their recklessness. But two brave women take a stand, committing themselves to saving their community and families. Jess Montgomery's gorgeous writing can be just as dark and terrifying as a subterranean cave when the candle is snuffed out, but her prose can just as easily lead you to the surface for a gasp of air and a glimpse of blinding, beautiful sunlight. This is a powerful novel: a tale of loss, greed, and violence, and the story of two powerful women who refuse to stand down."―Wiley Cash. "With compassion and skill, Jess Montgomery deftly smashes stereotypes and puts a human face on the cost of coal mining in 1924 Appalachian Ohio. Rich with historical details, yet fast paced, The Widows revolves around a murder investigation. But it was the vivid voices of Lily Ross and Marvena Whitcomb that completely captivated my heart and kept me reading long into the night."―Ann Weisgarber.

New York: Minotaur Books/St. Martin’s Press, 2018. 327 pages. Hardback in dust jacket.