Upstate reporter Ellie Stone’s perfect 1961 Adirondack vacation is spoiled by everything from a skinny-dipping aunt to a pair of deaths that may or may not be accidental.
Even swimmers who are comfortable with their bodies don’t want strange men showing up when they’ve been bathing in the nude. But Ellie’s Aunt Lena is even more disturbed when Ralph “Tiny” Terwilliger, the new chief of the Prospector Lake police, demands that Ellie (No Stone Unturned, 2014, etc.) and her Leica accompany him to the spot beneath Baxter’s Rock where two men plunged to their deaths so that she can take the crime-scene photos he’s not equipped to take. Not that Tiny, whose body odor is as offensive as his anti-Semitic language, thinks there’s been any crime; he’s not troubled by the fact that both men, identified as music camp teen Jerry Kaufman and Hollywood producer Charles M. Morton, both dived from the rock and missed Prospector Lake. Ellie, who’s swiftly drawn back to the musical friendship circle of her late brother, Elijah, reconvened at nearby Arcadia Lodge, is far more suspicious. She’s on hand when Ruth Hirsch, scoping out one of her photos, identifies Morton as Karl Marx Merkleson, another childhood friend who split with the Arcadia contingent, especially militantly religious Simon Abramowitz, when he abjured his religion and married shiksa Gayle Pierce. Can Ellie, who’s fallen hard for math teacher Isaac Eisenstadt, trust her judgment about the members of the Arcadia crowd, who turn out to be even more tightknit than she knows?
Ziskin plants clues so conscientiously that most readers will beat the heroine to the killer. What makes this case stand apart is its sensitively nuanced evocation of the conflicts that swirl around the artsy Jewish milieu of the early 1960s.