I must admit that when I began this book I wasn’t sure that D-L Nelson could pull off a tale combining present-day mystery and a slave narrative history, and make it work but Murder in Caleb’s Landing coalesces into a fascinating story.
D-L Nelson (Donna-Lane Nelson), a Swiss-American author, introduces her new series protagonist, the engaging Annie Young, also Swiss American. Annie is visiting Caleb’s Landing, a small Massachusetts town where her parents have retired after inheriting a quaint old house. While assisting her parents in cleaning out the house’s cluttered basement, Annie discovers a diary—and a skeleton.
For Annie, an avid avocational historian when not pursuing her “day job” as a technical writer, it soon becomes apparent that she has certainly come to the right place to exercise her skills and to sate her curiosity about matters historical. The diary turns out to be written by a former slave (Nelson readily credits Harriet Jacobs’ Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl as a model for the slave narrative), and initially everyone assumes that the skeleton is that of the journal’s author. The mystery accelerates, however, when forensic evidence indicates that, in fact, the person found was murdered much more recently than the 19th century.
Nelson proceeds to skillfully interweave these plot strands, including an additional thread focusing upon domestic violence, into a spellbinding mystery. Her spare, elegant writing style is an additional treat. I highly recommend this book, particularly to aficionados of the historical mystery.