In the backwoods country of Lyme, New Hampshire, where the Carvers and Reeds have feuded wordily for decades, strange things are happening: realtor Davy Tefler has been found strangled, and Benj Carver has drowned in a vat of maple syrup. Is the threat of development, in the person of part-time resident Henry Perley, to blame? Hugh Quint, ex-police, ex-Boston, admirer and friend of crusty Amos Reed, aims to find out. He uncovers a tie between Perley and big-time builder Thomas Fratacelli, but the murder of Perley's surveyor and the recent secret arrival from Arizona of Carver's cancer-ridden brother Ernie have him totally confused. In the end, it's the sage seniors who solve this one, coming up with a solution that rings sad but true. Sherman has a quirky writing style that mixes philosophy, environmentalism, sugaring lore, and a little romance (with Reed's daughter Janice) with his tidy puzzle to come up with an appealing, unhackneyed debut.