Ninety-year-old, bedridden Rachel Martin (—the provinces of her body gone for good”) lies waiting to die. Her mind, however, is unimpaired. Even more, in fact, it’s engaged in a ceaseless struggle to find its way through the dark and twisting corridors of a family labyrinth, an effort that keeps Rachel in turmoil. The battle is joined on the day of an unlooked-for visit from a much loved but wastrel son. Typically, he lies to her, attempts to charm and con her. At issue is his spurious claim to a set of dueling pistols fashioned two centuries ago by a master craftsman and now worth a fortune. Years earlier, Rachel had given the pistols to her husband as a birthday present. Now, inexplicably, one of them is missing. How and why? The answers seem tied (Rachel senses) to a rich variety of human misbehavior, including random duplicities, ugly betrayals, and murder. But Rachel can’t move. She can barely speak. Still, paralyzed as she is, she can, through sheer force of personality, conscript people to act for her. One of these is the sweet-natured home-care nurse who values and responds to Rachel’s extraordinary qualities. Another is a young woman, a virtual stranger, who is helped by Rachel in ways neither of them can fully understand or explain. The story moves back and forth in time as Rachel’s ferocious intelligence sifts and sorts, and finally solves her tormenting puzzle. An intricate mystery, beautifully told, as usual, by one of the genre’s leading spellbinders (The Yellow Room Conspiracy, 1994, etc.).