In the sleepy coastal Maine town of Penhallow, a stranger dies on a train, drawing Historical Society Director, Rachel Tinker, and curmudgeonly retired professor, Griffin Tate, into a spider’s web of archaeological obsession and greed. With the help of the victim’s rival, they set out to locate the Queen of Sheba’s tomb. Their plans are stymied when a tug of war erupts between the sheriff and a state police detective who want to arrest the same man for different crimes. It’s up to Rachel to solve a mystery that includes two more murders, if she wants to unlock the soft heart that beats under Griffin’s hard crust.
What makes you think it was murder?”
“Well, what else could it be?”
Rachel showed these suggestions the disdain she was sure they deserved.
Katie had remained standing by their booth, ignoring the increasingly desperate signals from the two tourists at the next table. “Say, Rachel, weren’t you taking tickets for the excursion on Saturday? You must have seen the victim. What did he look like?”
Before Rachel could answer, they heard an angry growl from the bar. “God damn it, can’t a man eat his lunch in peace? God damn ghouls around here.” Griffin scratched his stubbly chin and pointed a fretful finger at the women. “You’d think no one had ever been killed before, the way you people go on and on.”
Rachel, enchanted by the way his eyes shimmered in the sunlight, didn’t respond. Maude snapped, “Professor Tate, just because you’re an old roué doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy a little mystery. Not much happens in Penhallow after all. We’re entitled to some excitement.”
Griffin bristled at her. “A man is dead, Maude. This isn’t a movie.”
“Well,” she bristled back, “at least he was from away.”
Griffin gave her a long, hard look and, before turning back to his plate, muttered, “Like me.”
For some reason his words struck hard at Rachel’s heart. She couldn’t see his face, and knew it wouldn’t show the hurt anyway, but she could feel it from across the room. To a Mainer, anyone who couldn’t trace his Maine lineage back to at least the French and Indian War was considered “from away.” Locals usually felt no more than amiable indulgence for the odd critters, but now and then the innate prejudice came out. “Maude—that wasn’t nice. After all, I’m from away too.”
Maude tossed her head. “Yeah, well. You’re different.” She finished off her beer. “Gotta go. I’m filling in for LuAnne at Hannah Sundstrom’s place over on Bridge Street this month.”
“The Trinket Shoppe?”
“Yup. Before Hannah died she asked LuAnne to keep it open until her estate was settled.” She stood. “You want to keep me company?”
Rachel checked out Griffin’s rigid torso and sighed. “Okay.”
Later that evening, she drove the two miles home to Amity Landing, a tiny village on the bay made up of Victorian cottages, most of which were only used in the summer. Founded as a religious retreat camp, pocket-sized houses had replaced the original tents set up by Methodists from all over Maine. Some still bore the names of the visiting campers’ home towns—Rockport, South Thomaston, Orono. And most had, for better or worse, preserved the original plumbing.