Amateur detective and home-repair expert Jacobia “Jake” Tiptree pitches in on a volunteer house restoration project to discover something worse than dry rot: two corpses, one old, one brand-new.
Harlequin House was notorious in Eastport, Maine, in the 1920s as the party headquarters of diverse unsavory characters like its owner, Chester Harlequin, great-uncle of Ellie White, Jake’s best friend. Ellie and Jake are helping the Historical Society restore the house when they stumble into a plastered-over hidden room. The reason for the plaster becomes clear when they discover a skeleton dressed in flapper rags inside. Jake is concerned about pregnant Ellie, since it looks as if her great-uncle might be implicated in the 80-year-old death. And his worry deepens with the discovery of a second corpse, recently poisoned. The fresh blood belongs to Hector Gosling, whom Ellie’s husband George publicly despised. When he refuses to account for his movements and his youthful criminal record is discovered, George is arrested. George and Ellie’s many Eastport supporters include George’s old friend Will Bonnet, part of the reason George got in trouble with the law years ago, but it’s Ellie who must figure out who killed Hector and who has reason to frame George.
Graves ends up resolving several major problems by smoothing them over with spackling and good will. The resulting carpentry is entertaining but not always structurally sound.