Connie B. Dowell, the author of The Poison in All of Us, had me at the word "suffragettes" in the description. I love reading about suffragettes. It's one of the things that Tara and I have in common. So I accepted a free copy of Dowell's novella in return for this honest review.
The Poison in All of Us takes place in a small town the year before the 19th amendment to the U.S. constitution was ratified by enough states to make women's suffrage the law of the land. The fictional town of Cora, Georgia was deeply divided on the issue. The women's club voting in favor of women's suffrage plunged this community into what seemed like an escalating spiral of violence which began with the murder of Miss Letty, the leader of the pro-suffrage faction.
The protagonist, Emmie McAllister is a gutsy and outspoken young woman whose main ambition as the book opens is to buy a motorcycle. Women riding motorcycles are as fascinating to me as suffragettes which is why Tara's Ride For Rights is one of my favorite books. So Emmie on her Harley went a long way toward getting me to accept her penchant for taking foolish risks. I just hope she'll grow out of that tendency over the course of the series.
Dessa, who joins Emmie in investigating the murder, is practical, cautious and analytical. There were numerous times when I wondered why Dessa wasn't the protagonist because she noticed things that Emmie didn't. This made her a superior investigator. On the other hand, sometimes someone who is investigating a
murder needs to be brazen, to take actions that no one expects or to be
able to respond quickly to events on her handy motorcycle. So Emmie and Dessa would make a good team if they weren't antagonistic frenemies for a good part of the narrative. Their relationship does evolve when Emmie learns more about what motivates Dessa. I have to say that once Dessa's circumstances are fully revealed, I considered her a more sympathetic character than Emmie.
So what is "the poison in all of us"? I believe that it's the prejudice that divided the town of Cora. The animus against women's suffrage didn't end in Georgia for quite some time. Dowell reveals in her author's note that Georgia didn't ratify the 19th amendment until 1970!
The Poison In All of Us is a suspenseful mystery that also makes strong statements about societal divisions and political corruption.