Light, engaging, small-town-romance debut novel, with a goofy whodunit subplot about a trio of eccentrics obsessed with old graveyards. Hesper Dance, the fortysomething heroine, has always found graveyards peaceful--and so she becomes caretaker of Peregrine's Rest, a shady, historic cemetery park in the small Maryland town of Colonnade. On the opposite side of town, Quentin Pike, a rootless, fortysomething loner who reminds women of ``an old European walled city that had seen uprisings and overthrowings, bombs and reconstruction, glory and disillusion'' loses his umpteenth job, answers a classified ad for a job as a caretaker's assistant at the cemetery and is hired over Hesper's objections. Meanwhile, Lydia Webkin, a retiree who lives in an old house that shares a wall with the cemetery, searches the bucolic Maryland landscape for dealers in old comic books drawn by a dead lover, Ned Holly, whose cartooned gravestone is one of the cemetery's more popular tourist attractions. Each comic book Lydia finds helps her to commune with Ned's spirit, whose actuality Gostin tastefully leaves ambiguous. The novel harbors many an unusual turn and wry glimpse of human nature as these three become ensnared in the vile plans of 60-year- old twins Argus and Audrey Malvin, the cartoonishly perverse black sheep of one of the town's wealthiest families, who want to close down the cemetery because of a nasty secret hidden within a crypt. The hokeyness of the twins' evil undermines a lovely, coy tale of older, but no wiser, folks discovering an autumnal love among the ruined headstones. Gostin's habit of beginning her short chapters with pithy literary quotes about death and spirituality becomes tiresome, but the charm and quiet dignity of her characters, and the richly evocative atmosphere of the graveyard itself, save the book from its maudlin moments. Atmospheric, literate October country romance sure to warm the bed-and-breakfast set. A grown-up trick or treat.