2017 Arthur Ellis Award, Best Novel — Shortlisted
Saddlebag preacher Thaddeus Lewis uncovers murder and conspiracy in Northumberland County.
A body is discovered on an isolated island in Rice Lake. Saddlebag preacher Thaddeus Lewis is sent on a desperate hunt for the truth when a woman for whom he feels a guilty attraction stands accused of the murder. Meanwhile, railway mania grips the county: everyone expects to get rich off the Cobourg–Peterborough rail line — some at the expense of others.
Aided by his fifteen-year-old granddaughter and a charming but inexperienced lawyer, Thaddeus defends the woman while privately questioning his motives for doing so. With little hard evidence to go on, the courtroom battle to prove the woman’s innocence seems doomed — until a startling discovery gives the case a fighting chance. But the trio’s digging uncovers a conspiracy that could threaten the future of the entire district. With the fortunes of the county, and his own future, on the line, Thaddeus struggles against shady characters and his own conscience to solve the crime.
In the fifth book in Kellough's (The Burying Ground) historical mystery series, Thaddeus Lewis, a saddlebag preacher and sometimes sleuth in rural Ontario in the 1850s, finds himself in an awkward situation. For the first time since the death of his beloved wife, Betsy, he guiltily feels an attraction to another woman. Ellen Howell, however, is married, and she and her absconded husband are accused of murder. Thaddeus hires a charming young lawyer to defend her because he says he hates "to see anyone subjected to trial without adequate council" but questions his own motives. This all takes place against the backdrop of the construction of a new section of railway that everyone in the area hopes will make them rich. As he investigates, Thaddeus uncovers a fraudulent scheme that could jeopardize the completion of railway and looks like a possible motive for murder. Kellough's characters are fully realized and believable. Thaddeus is all too human. His granddaughter and housekeeper, Martha, is spunky, smart, and helps Thaddeus solve the case. Kellough masterfully portrays life in pre-Confederation rural Canada and explores sexism and the legal system at the time. A great pick for readers who love a mix of history and mystery.