A Stranger’s Death

By Strangers Mourned by John Lindermuth

“By Strangers Mourn’d” is a line from a poem by Alexander Pope. Not only is it a beautiful poem, but the line is an apt title for this book, which starts off with the death of a young woman who is unknown to everyone in the town of Arahpot, Pennsylvania, in 1899. Her remains have been found in a creek outside town and it is obvious she was murdered. It is Sheriff Sylvester Tilghman’s job to find the killer.

But other crime doesn’t stop because the sheriff is busy solving a murder, and Tilghman has his hands full with problems in Arahpot that have nothing to do with the woman’s murder—or do they? With the help of his deputy, Cyrus, Tilghman works tirelessly to deal with the problems that crop up in his small jurisdiction, from a young boy who’s been shot to a constituent who’s constantly carping that the sheriff is spending too much time looking for the murderer of a woman who was just passing through town—and an immigrant woman at that.

Readers of my blog may recall that I’ve reviewed books by John Lindermuth in the past and enjoyed them, which is part of the reason I had a feeling I would like this one. When John asked me to read the book and write a review, it was a no-brainer for me.

The characters in this book are multi-faceted and likable (well, at least the good guys are likable, and even a couple of the bad guys are, too) and the story moves at a nice clip. Not too fast, not too slow. The reader gets an opportunity to get to know the town of Arahpot and its inhabitants, and there’s even some insight into how people around the turn of the twentieth century felt about some of the innovations of the day, such as the telephone and ragtime music.

Historical fiction from this time period requires good old-fashioned police work to bring the killer to justice. There can be no dependence on DNA or fingerprints or technical crime scene investigation to help law enforcement draw a net around the killer, and Lindermuth relies handily on Tilghman’s intuition, experience, and practical know-how to catch the killer. But it’s not an easy job, and there’s plenty of danger lurking in the story, waiting to ensnare lawmen who let their guards down.

The story is well-plotted and has a subtle complexity that hints at undercurrents of class and ethnic differences. I would recommend By Strangers Mourned to anyone who loves a good historical mystery with plenty of peril and great dialogue.

When John Lindermuth asked me to review the book, he also offered to provide a guest post to accompany the review. What follows is his brief post, which is a perfect complement to the thoughts I’ve shared about the book.


Early mining operations in Pennsylvania’s anthracite coal region were the work of amateurs. Those who owned the mines and hoped to profit from them soon realized the need for experienced miners.

Competition began for the available supply of English, Welsh, and Scots-Irish miners who had learned their skills in the old country. Irish immigrants who fled the Potato Famine of the 1840s filled a variety of unskilled jobs above and below ground. They sent word home about opportunities and their number greatly increased. Many Germans also worked in the mines, though more were employed at carpentry, as blacksmiths, and in other related fields supplemental to mining. By the second generation, many of the Irish had learned the mining trade and the English and Welsh moved into supervisory positions.

In the decades that followed as miners began agitating for unions to improve their working conditions and lives, mine owners began seeking cheaper and more manageable labor. This led them abroad where their agents began recruiting Eastern Europeans, many of whom did not speak English and were eager to accept work at rates lower than those demanded by domestic laborers.

In doing my research I discovered these European agencies also recruited young women to work in silk mills, other factories, and as domestics in homes. As is the case now, there were those unscrupulous predators who took advantage of the unwary. This provided the impetus for By Strangers Mourned.

A primary goal in writing historical and other fiction is to entertain the reader. But, if I can offer some insight into what life was like for our ancestors I hope it will be a bonus the reader will appreciate.

20 thoughts on “A Stranger’s Death”

  1. Totally fascinating post and such fab photos too. Good luck with this. I live not far from where Alexander Pope had a house and it is now a park, the house long gone. Many places in the area are named for him as well. Small world. xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Jane. John Lindermuth knows how to write a compelling tale. I am so envious of where you live–the UK knows a thing or two about preserving history, and the US would do well to take some of those lessons to heart. We think nothing of knocking something down to make way for a newer iteration of architecture, style, etc. It’s sad.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I shall check his work out. I lived in the US and was shocked at how little regard there is for the past and history. So many places we were working where we knew there was history but couldn’t find any trace of it. Sad. I will look for a photo of A.P’s park, called Popes Meadow and if I find it I shall send it to you. xx

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I shall do my best to get them asap. The countryside is looking gorgeous at the moment. This morning, in my garden, we had four deer visit, 2 Roe, I Chinese Water Deer and a Muncjac. There are several fox cubs, a heron and lots of birds and squirrels around too. Like a safari park at times!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I enjoy historical fiction, Amy, and this book sounds very good. I like a strong sense of place and time, which often comes through in the details. I also like dogged sheriffs. 🙂 Thanks for sharing Lindermuth’s book and for the recommendation. Congrats to the author.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Diana. I find that John’s books have that feeling of being there in the middle of the story, which is part of the reason his mysteries are so good. And I agree–a dogged sheriff is a force to be reckoned with. Glad you stopped by!

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Debby! I’m glad you enjoyed the review. John is an author-historian, so when you read one of his historical mysteries you know you’re in good hands. Have a great week!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This is one of the reasons I like historical fiction. I learn so much about a certain time period. And the (murder) mystery keeps me turning the pages. Thanks for the wonderful review. The latest historical murder mystery book I read was A Traitor Among Us: A Cape May Historical Mystery (Cape May Historical Mystery Collection) by
    Amy M. Reade which was FABULOUS, and before that A Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Mayhem by Manda Collins, which was fun.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s part of the reason I love historical fiction, too, Pam. John is an historian in addition to being an author, so his books are meticulously researched.

      THANK YOU for reading A Traitor Among Us! I’m so glad you enjoyed it. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

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