A novice writer doubles as a clever sleuth.
Lena London’s apprenticeship with famous thriller writer Camilla Graham includes a room at her home in Blue Lake, Indiana; board; and friendship. An unexpected visit from Jane Wyland, a former schoolteacher Camilla hasn’t seen in years, brings the author to tears. When Lena gets Camilla to talk about the encounter, she admits that Jane threatened to disclose an unpleasant secret about her late husband, James, that goes back at least 40 years. The next day, Lena and Camilla go to Jane's house to try to reason with her only to find emergency services on the scene. Their friend police officer Doug Heller tells them Jane was murdered. Camilla would be a suspect but for her perfect alibi: She’s spent every minute since Jane left her house with Lena. The pair get plenty of support from Lena’s boyfriend, Sam West, who knows what it’s like to be accused of murder (A Dark and Twisting Path, 2018, etc.); Cliff Blake, his police officer half brother; and Adam Rayburn, Camilla’s boyfriend, formerly her late husband’s best friend. Camilla plans to read the many letters she received from James while she was still living in England before their marriage in the hope of identifying the weighty secret Jane threatened to reveal. As she and Lena return from talking to a group of James’ high school friends, Lena’s car is run off the road, and she ends up in the hospital with a badly broken arm. Upon her release, the detective duo continue to read the letters and ask questions of survivors from long ago in an effort to discover the secret that’s bad enough to kill for.
Buckley’s pleasantly old-fashioned fourth is filled with credible suspects and a creeping sense of menace.