BOOKS: New Jess Montgomery mystery investigates vanishing baby

Book is latest in series by former Dayton Daily News columnist Sharon Short.

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

Regular readers of the bookish pages in this newspaper should recall perusing Sharon Short’s Literary Life column. Perhaps you are wondering what she has been doing since she stepped away from her print coverage of literary happenings in our region?

You might also remember Sharon began writing a series of crime novels under the pen name Jess Montgomery. “The Echoes,” the fourth book in this “Kinship” series, is out and the author biography provides information on what Sharon has been up to recently.

Along with writing this series about a female sheriff set in Southeast Ohio during the 1920s, Sharon now writes a column, Level Up Your Writing (Life), for Writer’s Digest magazine. She’s also hosting a podcast, Tea with Jess: Chatting with Authors and Artists. Learn more at

Sheriff Lily Ross is a character inspired by the actual first female sheriff in Ohio. The author heard about how this woman who had been married to a county sheriff ended up assuming his position after he was murdered.

Which gave her the idea for a crime series. In the first book, “The Widows,” the story opens as Lily’s husband is getting killed. Once Lily assumed her husband’s former position she investigated what happened to him and after solving that crime she eventually decided to run for re-election.

These books are set year by year one right after the other and by the time we open the fourth book , “The Echoes,” it’s July 4, 1928, Lily is now established as the sheriff after winning re-election. Although there are plenty of residents of her rural county who aren’t particularly respectful of a female law officer she is gradually winning some of them over.

So far these books have been written from alternating points of view. There’s always the vantage point of Lily, then we’ll have another woman’s viewpoint. In “The Echoes,” there’s the point of view of Lily’s mother, Beulah, who like Lily, is also a widow.

As the story opens a memorial park dedicated to local men who died in WWI is about to open. An elderly lady has a vision of a woman submerged in a pond. When Lily searches the pond she finds nothing. But we know that eventually this foresight will come true.

There are several characters in the story who made it back from the war. Lily’s husband did. Before he was murdered. However her brother Roger, Beulah’s son, was killed over there. And Beulah is reluctantly keeping an incredible secret. She knows Roger had a love affair over there and his French child is on her way here now to come live with them.

Then there’s a baby, a mysterious baby. We are not sure who this baby belongs to. It keeps turning up. One moment you see the baby. The next moment it is gone. What is up with that baby, anyway? This is the most ingeniously plotted book in the series so far. What fun!

Vick Mickunas of Yellow Springs interviews authors every Saturday at 7 a.m. and on Sundays at 10:30 a.m. on WYSO-FM (91.3). For more information, visit Contact him at

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