New England’s professor/sleuth Homer Kelly’s wife Mary (Dead As a Dodo, 1996, etc.) wants him to look into the disappearance of her onetime student Pearl Small, whose husband Fred is trying to turn his wife’s inherited acreage, once devoted to pig-farming, into an upscale residential development. At the same time, the Kellys are lending support to Mary’s niece Annie, a successful children’s book illustrator. Annie’s rented her comfortable house to Roberta and Bob Gast, parents of ten-year-old Charlene, an arrogant up-and-coming swim star, and eight-year-old Eddy, a victim of Down’s syndrome. Eddy likes to visit the lavish extension Annie has had built for herself, complete with a 35-foot wall on which she’s painting characters from her favorite stories, with the help of a scaffold erected by her gifted, rather mysterious handyman Flimnap O’Dougherty. When Eddy is found dead, seemingly in a fall from the scaffold in Annie’s empty house, the Gasts sue, claiming she had left her doors unlocked. They succeed in stripping her of her property and are trying to evict her as she, her friends, and Homer and Mary take turns protecting her wall from the wreckers. Meanwhile, Fred Small claims he’s received a postcard from Pearl, along with her signature on the papers necessary to get his project started—a project, it transpires, in which Bob Gast is a partner. It takes a while, and some help from an unexpected source, but justice triumphs even as Annie embarks on a new romance. Although rife with fairy-tale elements of its own and heavily sprinkled with literary quotes, this 13th outing for Homer Kelly is the author’s best effort in some time: taut, suspenseful, and absorbing all the way.