Tess Spencer loves her low-key job at the Crystal Mountain Spa, which allows her plenty of down-time with her one-year old daughter and lawyer husband, Thomas. But when a pool installation turns up eight skeletons in the spa’s back yard, Tess becomes entangled in a sleuthing job destined to go awry. As the investigation gets underway, someone dumps a fresh body near the excavated burial site, confirming unspeakable fears. A serial killer has returned to Buckneck, West Virginia…a skilled hunter with a unique taste in prey. When Tess agrees to help the cunning Detective Tucker gather clues from the inside, she discovers the posh spa hides more than dead bodies. Even as she sifts through layers of deceit, Tess realizes too late that the killer’s sights have zeroed in on her. Unpredictable psychological mystery replete with memorable characters, Trial by Twelve is Book Two in A Murder in the Mountains series.
Heather Day Gilbert writes character-driven novels that go beyond the vows, capturing the triumphs and heartaches unique to married couples. A graduate of Bob Jones University, she’s been married to her sweet Yankee husband for over sixteen years. After ten years of homeschooling and six years of writing, she really doesn’t have many hobbies. Born and raised in the West Virginia mountains, she believes that bittersweet, generational stories are in her blood.
Tess Spencer is back with another psychological mystery set in the woods of rural West Virginia. Trial by Twelve takes place 2 years after the conclusion of book 1, Miranda Warning. Some things have changed for Tess — she is the mother of a little girl, her best friend’s health has deteriorated and Tess’s faith in God has grown. Working as a receptionist at a local spa, Tess again becomes embroiled in a mystery. The land behind the spa has been a dumping ground for a serial killer, and he is not finished.
Trial by Twelve is a well-written novel that happens to be a mystery. What do I mean by that? The characters are strong and well-developed, the reader is treated to well-crafted writing and there’s plenty to ponder. This book is not lightweight or formulaic. I love that the story is told in Tess’s first person voice. Her insights and idiosyncrasies give depth to the story. Tess is smart and savvy, yet she is also well aware of her limitations, doubts and fears. There is also a great sense of family in the novel — Nikki Jo is the nurturing, nourishing mother-in-law, Petey is the endearing little brother and Thomas is the hunky and protective husband. Both returning and new characters are complex and avoid stereotypes. And the mystery did keep me guessing until the end.
The ending leaves open future books. I look forward to more adventures with Tess. And who is the mysterious German florist Axel really? There is something a bit supernatural about that guy.
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(Thanks to the author for my review copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)