Monday, March 25, 2024

Aubrey Nye Hamilton Reviews: Bones Under the Ice by Mary Ann Miller

Bones Under the Ice (Oceanview, 2023) is Mary Ann Miller’s debut and the first in a series about small-town sheriff Jhonni Laurent, Field’s Crossing, Indiana’s first female sheriff. Snow removal in northern Indiana is a constant winter headache but Field’s Crossing has been piling the excess in a park for years, creating a sledding opportunity for the town children. Two boys thus occupied after the most recent blizzard find an arm in an enormous pile of snow, launching Sheriff Laurent’s first murder case.

The arm proved to be attached to the body of a popular student at the local high school. At first everyone thought the teenager had tried to walk home during the blizzard after her truck ran out of gasoline but the autopsy revealed a more direct cause of death. Her boyfriend was the most obvious suspect but he had an alibi of sorts.

Laurent’s investigation is hampered by a subordinate who ran in the election for sheriff against her and lost but stayed on as a deputy, undermining her at all turns. The local newspaper, such as it is, attacks her routinely and the board of supervisors does not want to pay overtime for her staff.

My first impression is how very well Miller knows rural small town life. The retired farmers who camp in the local diner for breakfast know more than anyone about what is happening and to whom. When Laurent wants to tap into the grapevine, that’s where she goes. The generational feuds between families she describes are realistic and damaging. And she pulls in the family farming crisis. Many farmers are retiring with no one to leave their land to because their children are unwilling to live a life of uncertainty and backbreaking labor. While the global demand for food grows, there are fewer farmers to meet it. She adds the controversy of wind farms to the mix with an informed discussion of the pros and cons.

A tight structure, even pacing, and understanding of small town operations, including the way an investigation like this would be carried out in a resource-limited department. A little more than midway through the book, the killer is revealed to the reader and from there on there are two story lines, one the investigation and the other the killer’s attempts to avoid identification. I found the change from a straight police investigation disconcerting and unnecessary.

The second book in the series is scheduled for October 2024. Especially for readers of police procedurals and small town crime fiction.

·         Publisher: Oceanview Publishing (March 21, 2023)

  • Language: English
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • ISBN-10: 1608095371
  • ISBN-13: 978-1608095377





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Aubrey Nye Hamilton ©2024

Aubrey Hamilton is a former librarian who works on Federal It projects by day and reads mysteries at night.

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