Reviewed by Jennifer Joyce
Hattie Davish has travelled from Kansas City to Eureka Springs, Arkansas, after taking a job as a secretary for Mrs Edwina Trevelyan. Hattie has never met Mrs Trevelyan because her former employer and trusted friend made the arrangements on her behalf. As soon as Hattie steps into Eureka Springs, her employment takes a strange turn. Even before she arrives at the hotel, where she will be staying while working for Mrs Trevelyan, Hattie is told her services won’t be required, but as she has already been paid a week in advance, Hattie continues on her journey.
Mrs Trevelyan is the leader of the American Women’s Temperance Coalition, whose aim in Eureka Springs is to abolish the sale of alcohol in the town. Hattie’s first glimpse of her new employer is of Mrs Trevelyan smashing a saloon before fleeing as the police have been called. Hattie doesn’t get to see Mrs Trevelyan afterwards and neither does anybody else until her body is found. Mrs Trevelyan has been murdered and Hattie decides to do a little investigating to find out who is responsible.
Set in 1892, A Lack of Temperance is the first in the Hattie Davish mystery series. Hattie is organised and thorough and displayed a lot of courage as she investigated Mrs Trevelyan’s murder, but I couldn’t really understand why she put herself in danger, possibly risking her own life, to uncover the murderer of a woman she had barely glimpsed. The police were already investigating, however chaotically, and I saw no major push for Hattie to wade in.
Hattie had never been to Eureka Springs before and had never met any of the inhabitants, so it was difficult to feel much empathy for the death of Mrs Trevelyan, or to feel connected to the story. There were quite a lot of members of the coalition to get my head round, which left me confused at times, particularly at the beginning before the key members became clear. However, I did quite like the scenes with elderly sisters Lucy and Lizzie, who constantly contradicting each other, offered a little light relief between the blood and death threats.
While I kept reading to see who had murdered Mrs Trevelyan, I can’t say that I was riveted by this book.