In a small town where everybody knows everybody, somebody knew Charlotte Scott all too well.
It’s 1902. Though she’s only 17, Charlotte already bids fair to become one of the leading citizens of Fairfield, N.Y. Even though she’s young, pretty and obviously talented, Charlotte never gets to be the famous actress she thought she was destined to be. In fact, she never gets to be 18. Following a triumphant performance as the leading lady of her high-school drama company, Charlotte is fatally poisoned by someone insidiously clever and exceedingly cruel. Newly arrived Dr. Clyde Deacon reacts to the young woman’s untimely death in a way just a bit odd. But then Doc Deacon is no ordinary physician. In the eyes of his old friend Sheriff Stanley Armstrong, he’s the very stuff of sleuths. With a chronically heavy caseload—to say nothing of 12 children, including a newborn—Sheriff Armstrong is both distracted and hard-pressed for help. Willy-nilly, Doc Dalton becomes Deputy Dalton and is assigned to Charlotte’s murder. As his investigation deepens, he discovers that bright and beautiful Charlotte had an unpleasantly dark side to her, that she was wildly ambitious, and that, disconcertingly, nobody really knew Charlotte, except perhaps for the person who killed her.
Plodding and predictable. Mackay (Old Scores, 2003, etc.) deploys prose as unadorned as his plot. Both of them could have used some adornment.