The marsh queen

Virginia Hartman, 1959-

Book - 2022

"Loni Mae Murrow's life in Washington, DC is tidy, if a trifle constrained. Single and in her mid-thirties, she's a bird artist at the Smithsonian who spends her days at a desk, making elaborate drawings of belted kingfishers and scrub-jays and purple gallinules. Then she's abruptly summoned back home to the wetlands of northern Florida, where she grew up. Her mother, critical and difficult, has grown frail and been resentfully consigned to assisted living, and her younger br...other, Phil, juggling a job and a wife and two young children, needs her help. Loni may not be her mother's only child, but there are some things only a daughter can do. Although Florida, with its suffocating heat and difficult memories, is a place she thought she'd managed to get away from, Loni soon discovers that home is not so easily forgotten. Going through her mother's things, she finds a cryptic note from a woman whose name she doesn't recognize: "There are some things I have to tell you about Boyd's death," it reads. Boyd is her father, a man who drowned in a boating accident out on the marsh when Loni was twelve and Phil just a baby. The circumstances of his death, long presumed a suicide, turn out to be murkier than anyone thought. Against her better judgment, Loni finds herself drawn into a quest to discover the truth about how he died. Against the mottled landscape of her youth, she is led both away from and toward the truth about the past and its betrayals. One by one, the forces keeping her in Florida become stronger. Someone begins to threaten her as she uncovers pieces of her father's story, but she can't figure out who. In the midst of this danger, she struggles to reconnect with her mother through the remnants of their past and to reconcile with her brother and his pushy, provincial wife. And she fights an attraction to a man who encourages her to stay in the South even as she determines to return to her job in Washington. At last moved to avenge the wrongs done to her family, Loni has to decide whether to join the violence or end it"--

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FICTION/Hartman Virginia
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Location Call Number   Status
1st Floor New Shelf FICTION/Hartman Virginia (NEW SHELF) Due Oct 11, 2022
Subjects
Genres
Thrillers (Fiction)
Novels
Fiction
Published
New York : Gallery Books [2022]
Edition
First Gallery Books hardcover edition
Language
English
Physical Description
369 pages ; 24 cm
ISBN
9781982171605
198217160X
Main Author
Virginia Hartman, 1959- (author)
Review by Booklist Reviews

Loni Mae Murrow has been haunted by her father's death since she was 12 years old. Her passion for drawing—and her desire to escape—led her away from her hometown of Tenetkee, Florida. Starting over as an ornithology artist, she now works at the Smithsonian. But when her mother has an accident, Loni's brother wants to move her to assisted living, and Loni must return to Tenetkee to help clear out the house. Loni finds a clue to the true circumstances of her father's death, a letter from a mysterious Henrietta. But with little evidence to go on and a reluctant set of witnesses, Loni flails. Her dogged investigation takes her from an unexpected romance to a dangerous game with a killer. With its atmospheric swampland setting, Hartman's debut brings to mind Delia Owens' blockbuster Where the Crawdads Sing (2018), while the mystery itself is on par with Stacy Willingham's A Flicker in the Dark (2022). While the plot has many different threads to follow, the fast pace and short chapters keep the story moving for an enjoyable ride. Copyright 2022 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

DEBUT Hartman's first novel is interwoven with strong natural history themes, evoking the works of Barbara Kingsolver. Raised in the swamps of northern Florida, Loni Mae is now a bird artist with a plum job at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC. When her mother starts showing signs of dementia, she returns to her hometown to help her brother sort through their mother's belongings, all the while stumbling over clues that seem to indicate their father's decades-ago death wasn't a suicide. On a quickly diminishing family leave, Loni Mae is unable to chart a path forward. She goes about her disorganized days juggling family expectations, questioning townsfolk about her father's death, sketching birds, and skittishly avoiding romance with a local man. The nonlinear story line is interspersed with long passages on drawing birds, the Floridian swamp, and gardening lore. Four-fifths of the way through the book, the action suddenly picks up when Loni Mae uncovers town secrets that threaten her understanding of the past. Her subsequent undertakings occur at an incongruously breakneck pace before the story wraps up a little too neatly with a family gathering at the nursing home. VERDICT Recommended for those who prefer happy endings.—Erin O. Romanyshyn Copyright 2022 Library Journal.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Hartman debuts with a well-crafted and fast-paced family drama set in the Florida panhandle. As a girl raised on the edge of a marsh, Loni Murrow adores her Fish and Game officer father, Boyd. When Loni is 12, Boyd dies in what some insist is a boating accident, though others hint at suicide. Hartman flashes forward to the present day, 25 years later, with Loni working at the Smithsonian as a bird artist. When her brother, Phil, summons her to deal with their mother, Ruth, who has a broken wrist and possible dementia, Loni is plunged back into the small town she had hoped to leave behind. Phil and his hairdresser wife are moving Ruth into assisted living much too expeditiously for Loni's taste, and selling Ruth's house. Loni's attraction to a canoe-rental proprietor, comforting visits with her dad's avuncular former boss, and illustration work offered by her best friend at a science museum in Tallahassee keep her grounded as she investigates Boyd's death, prompted by a mysterious letter found at Ruth's house. The closer she gets to the truth, the more someone tries to scare her away with disturbing anonymous threats. Hartman's depiction of the natural setting show her to be a talented writer, as do the well-executed takes on museum work, botany, and ornithology. Readers will hope to see Loni back for more. (Sept.) Copyright 2022 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Loni Mae Murrow, called home to care for her ailing mother, finds a cryptic note in her mother’s belongings about Loni’s father, leading her on a dangerous journey to find the truth about his death and to avenge the wrongs done to her family. 75,000 first printing.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

"Loni Mae Murrow's life in Washington, DC is tidy, if a trifle constrained. Single and in her mid-thirties, she's a bird artist at the Smithsonian who spends her days at a desk, making elaborate drawings of belted kingfishers and scrub-jays and purple gallinules. Then she's abruptly summoned back home to the wetlands of northern Florida, where she grew up. Her mother, critical and difficult, has grown frail and been resentfully consigned to assisted living, and her younger brother, Phil, juggling a job and a wife and two young children, needs her help. Loni may not be her mother's only child, but there are some things only a daughter can do. Although Florida, with its suffocating heat and difficult memories, is a place she thought she'd managed to get away from, Loni soon discovers that home is not so easily forgotten. Going through her mother's things, she finds a cryptic note from a woman whose name she doesn't recognize: "There are some things I have to tell you about Boyd's death," it reads. Boyd is her father, a man who drowned in a boating accident out on the marsh when Loni was twelve and Phil just a baby. The circumstances of his death, long presumed a suicide, turn out to be murkier than anyone thought. Against her better judgment, Loni finds herself drawn into a quest to discover the truth about how he died. Against the mottled landscape of her youth, she is led both away from and toward the truth about the past and its betrayals. One by one, the forces keeping her in Florida become stronger. Someone begins to threaten her as she uncovers pieces of her father's story, but she can't figure out who. In the midst of this danger, she struggles to reconnect with her mother through the remnants of their past and to reconcile with her brother and his pushy, provincial wife. And she fights an attraction to a man who encourages her to stay in the South even as she determines to return to her job in Washington. At last moved to avenge the wrongs done to her family, Loni has to decide whether to join the violence or end it"--

Review by Publisher Summary 3

For fans of Where the Crawdads Sing, this “marvelous debut” (Alice McDermott, National Book Award–winning author of The Ninth Hour) follows a Washington, DC, artist as she faces her past and the secrets held in the waters of Florida’s lush swamps and wetlands.Loni Murrow is an accomplished bird artist at the Smithsonian who loves her job. But when she receives a call from her younger brother summoning her back home to help their obstinate mother recover after an accident, Loni’s neat, contained life in Washington, DC, is thrown into chaos, and she finds herself exactly where she does not want to be. Going through her mother’s things, Loni uncovers scraps and snippets of a time in her life she would prefer to forget—a childhood marked by her father Boyd’s death by drowning and her mother Ruth’s persistent bad mood. When Loni comes across a single, cryptic note from a stranger—“There are some things I have to tell you about Boyd’s death”— she begins a dangerous quest to discover the truth, all the while struggling to reconnect with her mother and reconcile with her brother and his wife, who seem to thwart her at every turn. To make matters worse, she meets a man in Florida whose attractive simple charm threatens everything she’s worked toward. Pulled between worlds—her professional accomplishments in Washington, and the small town of her childhood—Loni must decide whether to delve beneath the surface into murky half-truths and either avenge the past or bury it, once and for all.The Marsh Queen explores what it means to be a daughter and how we protect the ones we love. Suzanne Feldman, author of Sisters of the Great War, writes that “fans of Delia Owens and Lauren Groff will find this a wonderful and absorbing read.”