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The regional historical crime novel proves to be an intriguing and often enlightening sub-sub-genre. When the writer uses a crime from their town's past for a story, it often delivers more suspense than something more infamous, since we know less about the outcome. It also tends to get us more involved in the time and place, since our lack of knowledge actually distances us less from that feeling of a history lesson. Robert Dugoni discovered some scrapbooks in the attic that took him down a rabbit hole of a murder case that his wife's grandfather was involved in as a defense attorney in 1930s Seattle. Further research, applied to his imagination resulted into A Killing On The Hill.

Dugoni uses a young reporter new to both Seattle and the profession, William "Shoe" Schumacher, as the lead and guide to the case. Acting on a tip of a shooting, Shoe gets to the Pom Pom Club, a speakeasy and gambling parlor, almost at the same time of the lead cop, Ernie Blunt, and the county prosecutor Lawrence McKiny. The victim, Frankie Ray was a prize fighter with mob ties. Blunt ends up arresting the Pom Pom's owner, George Miller. Shoe sees this story has the pizzaz! his editor looks for.

He makes a splash with the article and is assigned to cover the trial. Miller's attorneys apply the relatively new defense that he acted out of fear for his life. Shoe gets closer to the story, possibly more than it should. His mining for the next headline, takes him through Seattle's underworld and corrupt political machine, as well as it's high and low societies. As he gets closer to the bigger truths of the murder, it gets more dangerous: especially when a witness he questioned is also murdered.

Dugoni uses the POV of a young journalist to travel through a Seattle where Prohibition overlaps with The Great Depression. Whether putting cardboard in the soles of his shoes or sending cash home to his struggling family, money never leaves his mind. His search for the next piece of the story of the shooting, allows us to see all the aspects as he interviews all those involved. That search takes him all over the Seatle of the time. We feel a touch of warm comfort anytime he goes indoors, off the damp streets.

Shoe also gives us a personal look at journalism at the time. There's point where he checks out the hawkers of the the two rival papers on the street to confirm he has a scoop. Dugoni, a former journalist, pays attention to the writing of the news story almost as much as the investigative work that is done. Shoe finds himself in ethical dilemmas, particularly when it comes to using the right facts to portray the truth and nuance about those involved or using the right ones for that pizzaz!

With A Killing On the Hill, Robert Dugoni takes historical fact and with his skills weaves an engaging fiction. The desperate times of The Prohibition crossed with the easy money of The Prohibition present moral quandaries for every character in this portside setting. Dugoni said he read about a lot of cases in that scrapbook. Hopefully, he can find a couple more stories for Shoe and he can chase down.


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