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Simeon's Bride
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Set in north Wales, this uneven first novel describes the murder investigation of a woman hanged in the woods, her decaying body found 18 months after her death. Chief inspector Michael McKenna directs the police work, and when his pathologist unearths near Gallows Cottage the 1793 remains of another hanged woman, the locals recall the centuries-old story of Simeon, the mad avenger of his wife's wrongful execution. Although the theme of soured marriages connects past and present nicely as the murder plot develops, and as McKenna eventually separates from his wife, the overlong exposition omits some key suspects, including the culprit, until surprisingly late in the narrative. McKenna's personality remains somewhat vague‘outside a sort of generalized dourness. Plentiful descriptions, drawn-out conversations and some extraneous scenes also slacken the pace. (Sept.)

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