When Lottie Allbright, director of the county historical society and undersheriff in a rural county in Western Kansas, responds to a middle-of-the-night call to find a dead man floating in the clean-out wash pit at a cattle feedlot, you know Hidden Heritage by Charlotte Hinger is not your routine novel.
Allbright combines her historical interests with her inate investigative sense as she sets out to find out what happened. Admittedly when she was standing by the stinky wash pit (imagine for yourselves how it would be given that the pit is where the cattle trucks washed out once they’d unloaded), she did not see that the man had a slash across his neck. Sheriff Sam Abbott saw that little detail, not immediately revealing it to feedlot owner Dwayne Weston, who identified the dead man as Victor Diaz, a hard-worker who had climbed his way up from the ranks to become the feedlot foreman.
One of Lottie’s first tasks is to inform Victor’s widow of his demise, and then she sets out to solve a crime, bolster the reputation of the local law enforcement operation, and do some historical research along the way.
This mystery is deepened when Lottie makes her way to the old home (really the compound) of Dona Francisca Diaz, whose roots in western Kansas go back, way back. She is an intricate character. A recluse, who has little contact with outsiders and even limited contact with her family, including the man found dead, her grandson Victor. But she is wise beyond first impression and very knowledgable as a natural healer.
A combined investigation and historical interest bring Lottie and Francesca together with the goal of solving the murder, and if along the way Lottie can preserve some history for the county and perhaps even gain an understanding of herbal healing, well, all to the better.
There are other factors at play in this mystery, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation is looking at streamlining rural law enforcement, potentially usurping the power of local folks like Sheriff Abbott and Undersheriff Allbright. And there, under the surface, is something more that will become one of the biggest keys to the puzzle, if Lottie can only uncover it. ❖