With compassion and insight, Jess Montgomery weaves a gripping mystery and portrait of community in The Stills, the powerful third novel in the Kinship series.
Ohio, 1927: Moonshining is a way of life in rural Bronwyn County, and even the otherwise upstanding Sheriff Lily Ross has been known to turn a blind eye when it comes to stills in the area. But when thirteen-year-old Zebediah Harkins almost dies after drinking tainted moonshine, Lily knows that someone has gone too far, and—with the help of organizer and moonshiner Marvena Whitcomb—is determined to find out who.
But then, Lily’s nemesis, the businessman George Vogel, reappears in town with his new wife, Fiona. Along with them is also her former brother-in-law Luther Ross, now an agent for the newly formed Bureau of Prohibition. To Lily, it seems too much of a coincidence that they should arrive now.
As fall turns to winter, a blizzard closes in. Lily starts to peel back the layers of deception shrouding the town of Kinship, but soon she discovers that many around her seem to be betraying those they hold dear—and that Fiona too may have an agenda of her own.
When a 12-year-old boy, who's been hired to supervise a moonshiner's still, witnesses a man shoot and injure a Bureau of Prohibition agent at the start of Montgomery's provocative, if flawed, third novel set in 1920s Kinship, Ohio (after 2020's The Hollows), Sheriff Lily Ross investigates. Meanwhile, Fiona Vogel returns to her aunt and uncle's farm in Kinship with her powerful bootlegger husband, George, and several of his yes-men, including Lily's estranged brother-in-law, Luther Ross. To Lily's surprise, Luther visits her office and presents himself as a Prohibition agent. While Lily questions Luther's true motives, Luther warns her of George's potential plans to bring his bootlegging business to the farm. Though Lily can't raid the farm due to a lack of evidence, Fiona sends her a tip that George's alcohol could have been swapped with toxic wood alcohol. When Luther's badly beaten body is found with a snakebite wound and the coroner insists the snakebite killed Luther, Lily senses that something doesn't add up. Richly fleshed-out characters compensate only in part for a surfeit of repetitive backstory. Fans of historical mysteries featuring strong female leads may be satisfied.