Home—Duluth, MN; and northern Scotland. E-mail—[email protected]
Author. Worked as a speech and language pathologist for ten years.
"JOHN MCINTIRE" MYSTERY SERIES
Past Imperfect, Poisoned Pen Press (Scottsdale, AZ), 2002.
Hunter's Dance, Poisoned Pen Press (Scottsdale, AZ), 2004.
Witch Cradle, Poisoned Pen Press (Scottsdale, AZ), 2006.
The Kingdom Where Nobody Dies, Poisoned Pen Press (Scottsdale, AZ), 2007.
After living in rural Minnesota for about four decades, Kathleen Hills worked as a speech pathologist for fifteen years before quitting to pursue a new career as a mystery novelist. She debuted her series, featuring constable John McIntire, in 2002 with Past Imperfect. The mysteries are set in the small town of St. Adele in the 1950s. St. Adele is a largely Scandinavian-American community in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. To this fairly isolated place enters McIntire, who has spent the last thirty years of his life working abroad in military intelligence. He is hired as the town's constable because of his experience, and it is not long before his skills are called upon. The McIntire books have been praised for their deft writing, sense of pace, humor, and colorful secondary characters.
Past Imperfect begins on a personal note for McIntire because the victim is a friend of his from childhood named Nels Bertelsen. Nels apparently died from an allergic reaction to a bee sting, but McIntire knows that there are many in the town who did not like the cantankerous Nels. Discovering evidence that a bee might have been deliberately planted within Nels's clothing, he suspects homicide instead. Hills takes time to bring a colorful community to life and to chronicle the efforts of an outsider to try to fit in to a place he has not known since childhood. Calling the novel an "impressive debut," Booklist contributor Sue O'Brien praised the "lovingly described setting … accomplished writing style, [and] quirky secondary characters who come alive." In contrast to this view, a Publishers Weekly contributor found the story to be somewhat plodding, stating that "Hill nicely captures the color and feel of the Michigan wilderness, but bland characters and a less than compelling plot don't generate much excitement or suspense." In Best Reviews, however, Harriet Klausner held the opinion of many other reviewers, asserting that "the supporting cast is colorful and eccentric while the plot is fast-paced and exciting."
Hills followed Past Imperfect with Hunter's Dance. In this installment, a horrifying murder takes place after a "hunt dance" celebration held by Native Americans and attended by local residents and summer visitors alike. A young woman named Bambi, who has been visiting with her parents at a chic fishing club, has been stabbed, poisoned, and scalped. As he investigates, McIntire is hampered by a meddling sheriff and personal problems involving a visiting aunt who brings with her some painful memories of McIntire's past. Klausner, writing again in Best Reviews, asserted that "Kathleen Hills is a talented author who writes a colorful tale with a sense of time and place." A Publishers Weekly critic felt that Hills "succeeds perfectly in capturing the complex relationships between insiders and outsiders and the obligations of family and friendship," while Booklist contributor O'Brien remarked that the sophomore title is evidence that the McIntire books are "quickly becoming a fine series."
Critic Jenny McLarin described Hills's next novel in Booklist as being "dark, dense, and delicious." This time, it is an old case that pokes its head into the lives of St. Adele's residents. Two skeletons are discovered in a farm cistern, one of which seems to be the remains of Rose Falk, a woman who disappeared around 1934. McIntire learns that the other body is not, as first assumed, that of Rose's missing husband, and the Falks' known association with the Communist Party causes another complication when an FBI investigator enters the case. The book "offers a fascinating glimpse at a time in history that is particularly relevant to our society today," observed Jan Fields in a MyShelf.com review. Best Reviews contributor Klausner found the historical background about the migration of Finns from Michigan into the Soviet Union during the Great Depression to be particularly fascinating, calling the novel both "a superb historical mystery" and "action-packed police procedural."
The Kingdom Where Nobody Dies features the killing of Reuben Hofer, who is shot while on his tractor. Suspects are plentiful in this case because Hofer has alienated his three children, while his wife is a notably sour woman as well. Add to this his past as a violent conscientious objector during World War II and the presence of visitors to the town of St. Adele who seem suspicious, and McIntire has his hands full with possible murderers. While Michele Leber, writing in Booklist, considered this installment to have a "less-absorbing plot and a paucity of background" compared to others in the series, many reviewers felt that The Kingdom Where Nobody Dies is another strong addition to Hills's oeuvre. "Hills weaves her tale skillfully with a plot as richly textured as her Midwestern landscape," attested a Publishers Weekly contributor. A Mysterious Reviews critic commented: "Readers who live in, or are familiar with, Michigan's Upper Peninsula will take special delight in reading The Kingdom Where Nobody Dies. Everyone else will simply take pleasure in a remarkably well written book."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, June 1, 2002, Sue O'Brien, review of Past Imperfect, p. 1691; January 1, 2004, Sue O'Brien, review of Hunter's Dance, p. 832; February 15, 2006, Jenny McLarin, review of Witch Cradle, p. 49; December 1, 2007, Michele Leber, review of The Kingdom Where Nobody Dies, p. 27.
Drood Review of Mystery, November, 2002, review of Past Imperfect, p. 7.
Kirkus Reviews, November 15, 2007, review of The Kingdom Where Nobody Dies.
Library Journal, July, 2002, Rex Klett, review of Past Imperfect, p. 125.
MBR Bookwatch, December, 2007, Tara Hammack, review of The Kingdom Where Nobody Dies.
Publishers Weekly, June 17, 2002, review of Past Imperfect, p. 46; December 22, 2003, review of Hunter's Dance, p. 41; January 30, 2006, review of Witch Cradle, p. 44; November 19, 2007, review of The Kingdom Where Nobody Dies, p. 41.
Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), August 4, 2002, review of Past Imperfect, p. 7.
Best Reviews,http://thebestreviews.com/ (June 1, 2002), Harriet Klausner, review of Past Imperfect; (December 21, 2003), Harriet Klausner, review of Hunter's Dance; (July 18, 2006), Harriet Klausner, review of Witch Cradle.
BookLoons,http://www.bookloons.com/ (February 26, 2008), Mary Ann Smyth, review of The Kingdom Where Nobody Dies.
Kathleen Hills Home Page,http://www.kathleenhills.com (February 26, 2008).
MyShelf.com,http://www.myshelf.com/ (February 26, 2008), Connie Harris, review of The Kingdom Where Nobody Dies, Jan Fields, review of Witch Cradle, and Rachel A. Hyde, review of Past Imperfect.
Mysterious Reviews,http://www.mysteriousreviews.com/ (February 26, 2008), reviews of Past Imperfect and The Kingdom Where Nobody Dies.