The likable heroine of this promising debut is introspective, slightly overwrought Penny Miller, writer-researcher for the glossy mag Pleasures and Palaces. Sent to Newport to help society reporter Ward Dart with an article on Werthmere, one of the great ""cottages"" (and its surviving occupant, aged Victoria Wentworth), Penny finds herself deeply involved in the never-solved murder of Victoria's robberbaron father, shot to death on the Werthmere grounds 80 years before. Old diaries and newspapers help her to reconstruct, in mind's eye, the events surrounding the murder: the impending marriage of Wentworth's daughter Elizabeth to Lord Deake (forced on her by imperious mother Eugenie); the labor-strife upheaval in Wentworth's business empire; the amorous forays among the maidservants by Wentworth's son Hallie. And eventually Penny's intensive effort of sense and sensibility produces a convincing solution--while providing a solid, dramatic evocation of a bygone era. Relatively original, modestly appealing.