Deputy Sheriff Michael Keane (Murder Comes by Mail, 2016, etc.) investigates a maybe-murder.
Everyone in Hidden Springs knows that the second-floor staircase in the Chandler mansion is a deathtrap. Years ago, Audrey Carlson fell to her death on those stairs. Now Michael finds realtor Geraldine Harper’s crumpled body at the bottom. It looks like another accident—only this time Michael also finds frail old Fonda Joyce Chandler Elwood, on the lam from Mrs. Gibson’s Gentle Care Home, keening over Geraldine’s corpse, claiming, “It was him.” But whether dementia-clouded Miss Fonda is confusing Geraldine with her long-dead sister, Audrey, or who on earth she means by “him,” is anyone’s guess. What Michael does know is that dispatcher Betty Jean Atkins took a 911 call reporting Geraldine’s death, which means that someone was almost certainly in the house when she died. As Michael searches for the missing witness to what may not even be a crime, a second struggle confronts him. Alexandria Sheridan, who left town for a promising career as a D.C. lawyer, returns to care for her ailing Uncle Reece. Can Michael persuade his childhood sweetheart to settle down in sleepy Hidden Springs? Past and present collide not only in Miss Fonda’s brain, but in Michael’s love life as he plows through a jumble of illusions, assumptions, and downright lies to find the truth.
Gabhart’s third Hidden Springs entry doesn’t quite have the bite of Joan Hess’ Maggody mysteries but is edgier than Meier’s Tinker’s Cove series, leaving it a serious contender in the ever growing field of small-town murder.