The Pancoast spinsters, sisters Emily and Judith, are fluttering about, awaiting the arrival of their relatives for Thanksgiving dinner, when they notice that their most prized possession, a handmade dollhouse with replicas of each family member, has been vandalized. They set it right, but after dinner is finished, it is mysteriously upended again—with the doll representing their niece crushed into her dessert plate, a fate all too soon reenacted in real life. Who would want poor Pamela dead? Dr. Fenimore, family physician and part-time sleuth (The Doctor Digs a Grave, 1998), chats up the kinfolk and the locals but comes to no conclusion, and soon it's Christmas, another doll in the dollhouse "dies," as does another family member, and then it's Valentine's Day and—well, you get the idea. The spinsters bury the dolls and burn the dollhouse in hopes of stopping the mayhem. Their relatives become in turn despondent, hysterical, and paranoid. The doctor's assistant, the estimable Mrs. Doyle, settles in to keep an eye on the sisters while the doctor, between patients and after a tryst with his much-younger girlfriend, ponders the murders. Eventually, Mrs. Doyle tumbles to the murderer's disguise. But even readers with no dollhouse experience will have figured it all out several holidays earlier. Better suited to the YA market, but even then, the author would need to shore up the plot, eliminate at least a few of the lists Dr. Fenimore makes of the suspects, and drop each and every parenthetical aside (they're goofy).
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