Liar's Bench; Kim Michele Richardson
Kensington - 2015
Liar’s Bench, is a fairly brief (approx 250 pages) multi-generational mystery that takes readers back to rural Kentucky, in 1972. It was a time when many people there were not happy about the changes being brought about by the Civil Rights Movement or women's rights.
The protagonist of the story is a young girl named, Mudas Summers. Mudas is just 17 when her mother, Ella, dies unexpectedly -- found hanging. Th town's police rule her death a suicide by, but Mudas doesn't believe that was the case. Angry with her father, she is determined to find out the truth about what happened to her mother. More than willing to help her is her mixed-race friend Bobby Marshall, a boy whose own ancestor was hanged many years earlier for a crime she did not commit. The set up makes the reader wonder what the connection here is, and in the process of their amateur investigation, many once buried secrets are revealed, including the significance of the "liar's bench".
The story is told from Mudas’ point of view. At times she came across as a bit too wise for her age. Some of the things that happened seemed a bit to convenient and contrived. Despite this, the story is a nice mix of coming of age story, historical story and also the 1970's mystery, that mostly held my interest. For a debut novel, I felt the author did a decent job capturing the tension, bigotry and hatred that was prevalent at that time.
Fans of Southern historical fiction and mysteries might want to consider this novel.
3.5/5 stars (review copy)