A suspicious accidental poisoning and a quilting quibble prod rural Washington’s favorite amateur sleuth back into action.
There’s never a break for brisk Emma Lord, publisher of the small-town weekly The Alpine Advocate. First, she wrangles with Alpine photo studio owner Buddy Bayard about a policy shift at the paper; then she consults House & Home editor Vida Runkel; finally she joins her brother Ben, a recently returned missionary, on the porch of his new church. Buddy and his wife Roseanna are pleased to be welcoming his mother Genevieve back for a visit after a generation. Emma sets up an interview with Gen, quite the Alpine belle in her youth and still beautiful, not knowing that Gen’s about to attend a fatal reunion dinner with her old friend Annie Jeannie Dupre. Both women are poisoned, though Annie Jeanie clings to life in a hospital while Gen dies. The consensus is that “daffy” Jeannie accidentally poisoned herself and her friend. Emma isn’t so sure. She finds a handful of skeletons in Gen’s closet—an illicit affair, a stolen quilt pattern, a long-forgotten accident—each providing a motive, and realizes she’s on the right track when someone ransacks her house. There’s also a long-lost Bayard relative whose return to town is too convenient for comfort.
Daheim’s 17th (The Alpine Pursuit, 2004, etc.) amiably captures the rhythms and crosscurrents of small-town life, even though Alpine sometimes seems overwhelmed by its enormous cast.