In this fifth installment of a series, a journalist and incorrigible amateur sleuth investigates a murder that disrupts a celebration at a peaceful cultural retreat in New York State.
It is the Fourth of July, and the Chautauqua Institution’s 5,000-seat Amphitheater is filled for the annual Independence Day concert. As the orchestra reaches the crescendo of Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture,” the audience pops paper bags on cue from the conductor. Lost in the cacophony is the sound of gunfire. Nobody hears it. Then Mimi Goldman, the sports editor of the Chautauquan Daily, sees EMTs racing to take out a woman on a stretcher. A 36-year-old documentary filmmaker, Maureen Donahue, has been killed. Mimi, who hails from New York City and logged several decades as a reporter and copy editor for the New York Post, plunges headfirst into the investigation. Never mind that she is about to marry her upstate beau, Walt Dellaria, and her schedule is already more than full. Who would have reason to kill Maureen? This, it turns out, is the wrong question, and it sends Mimi off on a tangent. No matter. There are plenty of little backstories to keep things gossipy and intriguing. When the prime suspect, Craig Halladay, a mentally disturbed man from New York City, turns himself in so he can proclaim his innocence, Mimi becomes suspicious that the case is being closed too quickly. Pines (Beside Still Waters, 2017, etc.), a newspaper copy editor and former reporter, produces snappy prose, and her narrative moves along at a healthy speed. On the way, readers are introduced to an assortment of eclectic secondary characters who make up the quirky ensemble of townies and visitors to the Chautauqua Institution, a well-known “summer camp for adults.” As in her previous volumes, the author takes the time to lay out the geography, history, and rich intellectual and artistic tapestry of the gated enclave, which first opened in the late 19th century. She builds her large cast of players with similar care, giving each one a chapter or two in which to star.
An engaging mystery with a late twist and an especially satisfying ending.