A Maryland businesswoman is caught up in a Victorian mystery.
It begins when Katherine Hamilton’s high school bestie, Lisbeth, arrives in Baltimore to ask for her help in saving their hometown of Asheboro from extinction. The local infrastructure has been damaged in a storm, and there’s been no money for repairs ever since the town bought the Barton Mansion, a Victorian house built by a Civil War veteran whose factory long supported the local economy. As Katherine leaves for Asheboro, her boss informs her that the high-end hotel where she works has been bought out and her job is gone. As she strolls through the town’s streets, she realizes that the paint and modern siding cover some lovely Victorian buildings that might better be restored than tarted up. Kate’s high school nemesis, Cordelia Walker, is on the town board, which has roused her to fury by vetoing her plan to turn the mansion into a modern B&B. Kate is hooked when she tours the mansion, a showstopper replete with Victorian furnishings that’s hardly changed since its heyday. The current caretaker, Joshua Wainwright, is a history professor at Johns Hopkins who’s using the on-site apartment to work on a book. Kate develops a plan to turn Asheboro into a living history site like Old Sturbridge Village, using the stunning Barton place as a centerpiece. Things get both better and worse when Cordelia is found dead on the steps of the mansion. Cleared by the police, Kate and Josh decide to do a little sleuthing. Since almost everyone in town hated Cordelia, the suspects are many and even include Kate’s high school sweetheart, who married and divorced Cordelia. The backstory of Henry Barton, who died childless in 1911, makes for fascinating reading, and the discovery of a trove of letters from Clara Barton—the real-life founder of the American Red Cross, who's supposedly related to the fictional Henry—encourages Kate to hope that her plan might succeed if they can only put the murder behind them.
The prolific Connelly (Many a Twist, 2018, etc.) kicks off a new series that skillfully combines history, romance, and mystery.