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by Graham Landrum

Pub Date: June 14th, 1996
ISBN: 0-312-14355-9
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

 In the southern town of Borderville, grande dame Alberta Chamberlain has died, leaving to the Ambrose County Historical Society her imposing portrait of Louis-Philippe of France, painted by Charles Willson Peale. Soon, however, the Society's president, Helen Delaporte--church organist, amateur sleuth, and wife of lawyer Henry (The Famous D.A.R. Murder Mystery, 1992, etc.)- -discovers that the painting is a fake, and a recent one. A search of the Chamberlain house, empty since its owner went to the hospital, turns up no trace of the original, and the story in the local paper plays up the Society's million-dollar lost treasure. Two weeks later, the body of handsome young Randy Hartwell is found stabbed to death in his grandiose mansion, and Harriet gets a tip that he had played piano concerts in the Chamberlain house and probably had a key. With help from Randy's neighbor Bob Kelsey; husband Henry (who manages to be appointed executor of Randy's estate); and feisty, aged Harriet Bushrow, recovering from a broken hip, Helen pieces together Randy's background as a spoiled, dilettantish musician and shady dealer in antiques--the center of a little group with mixed sexual preferences and artistic pretensions. In the end, it's octogenarian Harriet who sets the trap that winds it all up--nearly getting killed in the process. Narrated in turn by Harriet and friends, this fourth Borderville installment is much the same mix as before--strong in warmly drawn characters, less so in its fragmented, not always convincing plotlines. No scorcher, but old-shoe comfort from the late Landrum.