The third period piece for a widowed reporter/sleuth explores murder at a Catskill hotel.
En route to her 1888 wedding to Dr. Ben Northcote in his native Maine, Diana Spaulding (Deadlier than the Pen, not reviewed) pays a secret visit to her mother’s relatives in the tiny Catskill hamlet of Lenape Springs. Her mother, Elmira Grant Torrence, had only recently revealed her ties to the family Diana never knew existed. Guessing that she may not be welcome, she doesn’t reveal her identity and is furious when she discovers Ben has registered them as a married couple. So early in the season, the hotel is thinly tenanted by Diane’s relatives and Belle and Norman Saugus, a flashy couple who plan to turn Lenape Springs into another Saratoga Springs. When the body of the long-missing daughter of the handyman is discovered under the floor of a burnt-out section of the hotel, Diana, whose New York editor is eager for a story, wants to prove her relatives innocent. She and Ben, who’s been asked by the coroner to help out, travel the beautiful countryside looking for clues and interviewing reluctant witnesses. The discovery of Norman’s dead body, hung like a scarecrow, makes the task more difficult, but not impossible, for the independent investigator and her clever fiancé.
The tale, based on the memoirs of Renaissance specialist Emerson’s grandfather, evokes more recent times.