Jane Lawless thought that walking around the Lake of the Isles would be good for her dogs and her friend, Cordelia Thorn, but things turn serious fast when she discovers the body of a young woman in the water. Worse, she recognizes the body as Allison Lord, one of the young sorority sisters of Kappa Alpha Sigma, for whom Jane is an alumni advisor. While Allison’s death is quickly ruled a suicide, her housemates insist to Jane that she has been murdered. As Jane and Cordelia begin to look into Allison’s life, they find layers of secrets that hide some sinister truths. Between hidden trysts, disinheritance threats, and religious zealots on campus, Jane must discover who actually killed Allison before she becomes the next victim.
Hallowed Murder is the first Jane Lawless book, introducing readers to the lesbian restaurateur and amateur sleuth. Characters that have lasted through the next twenty books are all introduced here: Jane’s brother Peter, a very young Sigrid, and of course the theatrical Cordelia Thorn. One of the most memorable things about Hart’s work is her ability to give the reader multiple viewpoints, from Jane to Allison’s parents to Sigrid. This panoramic view of the story builds suspense, unfolding a story from scene to scene just like a play (which Cordelia would be directing, in her own inimitable way). Hart’s device of introducing her Cast of Characters at the beginning of each book contributes to this theme. However, there is nothing truly theatrical about Jane Lawless, as she treats each case with a sincerity that emphasizes her own internal compass.
While slightly dated, as any book published in 1989 would probably be, Jane Lawless is an iconic figure in lesbian mysteries, and her stories are ongoing.