Sturdy, resilient Alice Bertram is struggling, along with teenage children Doug and Julie, to build a normal life after divorcing brilliant, philandering teacher-writer Max. The news that Max has shot to death his most recent mistress, her small son, and then himself throws Alice into disbelieving turmoil. Against the cautions of Police Detective Crombie and long time family-friend and lawyer Herb Rosen, she sets out to prove her conviction that all three were killed by an outsider. She draws on her friendship with easygoing Sam, the plumber, her knowledge of Max, and her own gutsiness as she explores, among other matters, Max's sudden interest in hiking and the ecology of the oval river, and the strangely truncated manuscript of the history he was writing about the old-line family of Senator Salisbury. An escalating series of ominous happenings fail to scare off our heroine as she precipitates a tense and satisfying climax in the most august of Connecticut's stately homes. Cleverly plotted, swiftly paced escapism that holds the reader to the last page and marks a leap forward from the author's Anna Peters series (The Big Payoff, etc.).