I liked so many things about this book, it is hard to know where to begin. Let's start with my favorite part. The main character is an indexer, a person who creates the index for non-fiction books. She does this work freelance and she is doing it to make money that she and her husband badly need. They own a farm in North Dakota in 1964, they are financially strapped as was common at the time, and her husband has become an invalid due to an accident on the farm. She became an indexer before her husband's accident, but now the money is even more necessary to their ability to hold onto the farm.
I love indexes in books. I think I always have. I used the library a lots as a child and learned to write research papers with footnotes and references when I was in elementary school. When I worked for a publisher (of historical serials and reference books), I was exposed to indexing from the technical side of it. We had a system called SPindex that "spun" or rotated a set of index terms so that they all were listed together in the index in a string, for each indexed term. And I still look at the index in any non-fiction book before I look at anything else.
So the book had me as soon as I read the summary on the back. My husband, who also worked for the same publisher for many years, found the book for me and pointed out that the main character was an indexer. We both thought it was the perfect book for me, and I hoped it would live up to my expectations.
The setting in 1964 was appealing. I was a teenager in 1964 and my home in the deep South in a big city was nothing like a farm in North Dakota, but I could picture the cars and remember what life, and especially the life of a woman, was like at that time. The story makes the daily work of a farm feel real; the requirements of tending to the farm cannot be ignored while Marjorie investigates per Hilo's request. Marjorie loves the farm and life on the farm, even though her father had hoped she would go to college.
This is a gritty crime story; there is violence but it is not graphic and does not overwhelm the story. Other murders follow; for a small rural community where everyone knows everyone and frequently depends on their help, this is an unheard of occurrence. I did not come close to guessing the ending, and as soon as the culprit was revealed, I realized I should have. The author did a great job of misdirecting me, while leaving plenty of clues.
See Also Murder exceeded my expectations. There is a lot of depth to this story. Marjorie has an antagonistic relationship with her cousin, who is a professor at a college in the nearby town, and looks down on Marjorie because she is not college-educated. She is content with her life (as much as she can be in the circumstances), but her love of books and learning leaves her with cravings that are fulfilled by the indexing jobs. Beyond the tension of the continuing crimes, there is the emotional strain of needing to keep up with both the farm work and the indexing work, which is on a deadline for publication, because she needs the money and can't afford to antagonize the publisher she is working with.
The story is told from Marjorie's point of view, in first person. Marjorie is a wonderful character. Her life has taken some very bad turns, but she takes things in stride and gets on with what needs to be done. She isn't perfect, but she is a strong person that we can believe in. The relationship with her invalid husband is very well done; they are still in a partnership in making decisions about the farm, but she is the one who has to manage it all.
The author, Larry D. Sweazy, is an indexer and has been doing that work for many years. He also has written several Western novels, which I intend to try. See his website for more information.
See also reviews from other sources:
- Publisher's Weekly gave See Also Murder a starred review.
- Kevin Tipple's review at Kevin's Corner
- Melanie Hamilton's review at Underrated Reads
Publisher: Seventh Street Books, 2015.
Length: 250 pages
Format: Trade paperback
Setting: North Dakota
Source: I purchased my copy.