Mystery surrounds the arson-related death of a rural eccentric who eschewed trousers.
On the same night that Annie Bly’s daughter Meredith, a professional ballet dancer in New York City, gives a benefit performance for the “town hall auditorium restoration committee,” elderly farmer Morgan Mason burns to death in his upstate home. Though a man of few words, Mason was notorious in Killdeer, a couple of hours north of Manhattan, for annoying his neighbors and for wearing skirts. Annie (Tabula Rasa, 2005), a wry reporter for the Killdeer County Courier and Gazette, is doubly tied to the case. Her uncle Billy is the fire marshal, and her husband Sebastian is the state trooper assigned to investigate. So she’s in a prime position for the inside skinny. Right off, the burn pattern and a conspicuously placed pipe tip Billy that this was murder, a supposition confirmed by the autopsy. But who in Killdeer was annoyed enough at Mason to kill him? Every offbeat local seems to have a motive and a back story. Annie’s focus on this question gets diffused when her editor, Slim Cornfield, asks her to take over the paper, unexpectedly and immediately. Meanwhile, one of the prime suspects, tabloid television provocateur Creedmore Snowdon, stirs up some controversy by airing a piece that claims Mason died of spontaneous combustion.
Reuben’s sixth is a lively whodunit with welcome affection for the uniqueness of small towns.