Three young men, self-appointed vigilantes, fire at an isolated farmhouse intending not to kill the inhabitants but to “scarify” them. The time is 1938, the scene a tiny village in the Catskills, the message: “Climb on your bus, leave now, and don’t come back.” It’s meant for a small band of Jewish city-dwellers, mostly women and children, on a weekend’s outing, hungry for a few sniffs of country air—refugees, by and large, from Hitler’s Germany. To the gunners on the hill they’re dangerous, the vanguard of an alien swarm. But when the shooting stops, a woman lies dead who wasn’t dangerous, wasn’t an alien, and wasn’t supposed to be anywhere near the farmhouse. Why was native daughter Marjorie Bingham, cousin to one of the shooters, pillar of the community, hobnobbing with those unwelcome foreigners—Marjorie, whose views toward outlanders were so acceptably uncharitable? When her death proves to be no accident, Martin Collins, venerable head of the area’s first family, realizes it’s incumbent upon him to take a hand. His beloved grandsons are involved, though he has no idea to what extent, and so are two old friends who happen to be Jewish. Soon enough, Martin discovers that the answers he needs are rooted in local history, buried deep, and extremely ugly.
Impeccable plotting, colorful writing (“She had a temper that could melt a nail”), heroes worth rooting hard for, and villains just as worth rooting against. A debut of rare accomplishment.