A police officer’s wedding plans are complicated by a death in one of Nantucket’s most prominent families.
Meredith Folger, who comes from a long line of Nantucket police officers, is about to marry wealthy Peter Mason, whom she’s known forever. Shortly before the happy event, her father and grandfather run into famous foreign correspondent Spence Murphy at the Wharf Rat Club and realize his memory is failing when he doesn’t remember that his adopted daughter, Nora, has been staying with him at the family home. When Spence’s son Elliot, and his partner, Andre Henrissaint, arrive, the housekeeper tells them Nora’s been there but adds that she hasn’t seen her in more than a month. Soon thereafter, McTavish, Elliot’s Westie, leads them to the roof walk, where they find Nora’s badly decomposed body. Spence’s other son, David, a Boston attorney, brings fresh problems when he arrives with Laney, the daughter who’s lived with him ever since his bitter divorce from Kate, her mother. Nora seems to have died from drinking coffee laced with apricot seeds that Laney had provided in the hopes of curing her now-deceased grandmother, who had been suffering from cancer. Was Nora's death accident, suicide, or murder? A book Nora had been writing charges that Spence invented the story of imprisonment and escape from Cambodia that made him rich and famous. David, cold and bitter, wants Laney to stay on and take care of Spence until he dies and they can sell everything to settle the estate. Elliot, who’s passionate about the family home, wants to keep it but can’t afford to buy out David. When Spence becomes the next victim and a new will names Kate as trustee, the family implodes, leaving Meredith the tricky job of identifying which relative turned to murder.
After a long hiatus, Mathews returns to Nantucket (Death in a Cold Hard Light, 1999, etc.) with this twisty tale of family relationships gone bad.