A breath of a mystery (113 skimpy pages) in very complicated, PG-rated circumstances, but okay for kids receptive to lots of plot and little internal development. Dorothy and slightly younger brother Franklin (both presumably, if ambiguously, in their early teens), whose father died 18 months back, are staying at a decaying Louisiana plantation, Belle RÃªve, with their mother and her new English husband, Ian, who's as uncomfortable with them as they are with him. Still more disconcerting to Dorothy and Franklin, though, are the odd sorts who populate Belle RÃªve: uncommunicative owner Eva DuPrÃ‰; her witchy mother Jasmine; their testy servant FelicitÃ‰; drunken old gardener FranÃ‡ois, and Eve's brother Arthur, who keeps appearing unexpectedly but seems to be the only ""normal"" person around. The only really solid citizens it turns out, however, are black teenager Justin and his grandfather--for Dorothy and Franklin find FranÃ‡ois lying inert; don't believe, thereafter, that he's gone to visit a sister; trace his wooden chest to a dug-up field--where Franklin, looking inside, finds the body; and then, when the chest disappears, have to suffer Ian's wrath (""You've been wanting to humiliate me ever since we met"") before they can prove to him and the police that they are right--which also enables scholarly Ian to prove his mettle to them. The explanation for FranÃ‡ois' death and its coverup? Jasmine and he were once lovers; she was accidentally responsible for his death; FelicitÃ‰, to protect her, tried to make it look as if he'd gone away; Arthur, to keep the kids from finding out the whole ""sordid little story,"" made the body disappear--because, sit tight, lie's FranÃ‡ois' and Jasmine's illegitimate child! Actually, it's even more complicated than that, but Corcoran is a practiced storyteller who makes everything perfectly clear; what she doesn't do is give any of it--including the stepfather situation--any substance.