A death in the distant past may be the motive for murder in the present.
Now that she and her husband Gus have moved back to his native Newburyport, Mass., Andy Gammon’s immersed herself in local activities. Her skills as a researcher are requested by the Tricentennial committee when they update the town history. As she and her fellow researchers are working in the old church, they discover a body hidden in the steeple along with a silver tankard missing since the great fire of 1811, which Andy’s research reveals was not an accident but the final act of an unidentified firebug. She suspects that the murdered teen whose corpse she’s found is someone whose involvement in the fire has been covered up by prominent citizens. Then a fresher body is discovered in the church, that of a contemporary local Lothario who’d been restoring the steeple. Many of the town leaders are descendants of suspects long dead and gone, and when someone sets fire to Andy’s garden shed, she realizes that one of them must be unhappy with her research. Despite the threats, Andy continues to investigate both murders, barely escaping with her life when a modern killer tries to add her to the list.
Pagel hits the bull’s-eye in her first attempt with vivid flashbacks to the first murder, intriguing dollops of history and crusty characters in both time frames.