Classic old chestnut from the late Dame Catherine Cookson (The Silent Lady, 2002, etc.).
Brawny antiques dealer Paul Aylmer took in little Alison Read after the demise of her uncle Humphrey, Paul’s wartime chum and business partner (the girl’s parents had died long before and tragically). Moving briskly past all the bodies, the author gets down to brass upholstery tacks soon enough: Can’t Paul see that Alison is a woman now? Young, yes—but wise beyond her tender years, and with an unerring eye for fabulous furniture and noteworthy knickknacks with distinguished pedigrees. Over the years Paul taught Alison everything he knows about things like French eight-day timepieces and octagonal Georgian wine coolers, but now he seems oblivious to her budding charms. Alison indulges in secret sobs into her pillow once in a while, but she knows that loneliness may well be an orphan’s cross to bear and dries her girlish tears soon enough—until Paul’s former flame reappears. Mrs. Freda Gordon-Platt is a heartbreaker still, and Alison jealously wonders what Freda wants from Paul this time. Apparently, Freda’s dotty mother-in-law, the first Mrs. Gordon-Platt, has concealed some valuable necklaces within various odd objects that have subsequently vanished. Is there anything Paul can do? The convoluted history of the Gordon-Platts is gradually revealed but not the whereabouts of the jewelry. The redoubtable old lady, a former beauty and social butterfly who no longer has use for such baubles, has hidden it all safely away from the clutches of scheming Freda—as well as from the much more deserving Margaret, her hopelessly plain daughter who committed the unpardonable sin of marrying beneath her. Enter yet another Gordon-Platt to vie with a young furniture dealer for Alison’s favor. Alison, however, is too preoccupied with her unrequited tenderness for Paul and the mystery of the missing necklaces to pay much attention. Is it possible that the old writing case up for auction holds a secret compartment? A deft twist of a penknife will reveal a surprise . . . .
Nancy Drew meets Antiques Roadshow.