When writer Kathleen Darcy mysteriously disappeared seven years ago after publishing a hugely successful historical novel, ‘Naked in the Ice’, it was determined that suicide was the likely outcome although her body was never found. Now that she has been declared legally dead, her heirs, agent and publisher are launching a search for someone to write the much-anticipated sequel. Author Jacqueline Kirby, the series protagonist Peters first introduced to us in The Seventh Sinner, easily lands the job.
Jacqueline, sardonic and bitingly charming as ever (think of an alligator in a pink dress, maybe) temporarily relocates to Kathleen’s rural digs – the center of her writing life as well as the site of her disappearance – and finds a lot more than she bargained for after moving into Kathleen’s cozy cottage. Not only do Kathleen’s mooching siblings and half-crazy mother (who all live in a grand estate paid for by Kathleen’s earnings) present an unexpected obstacle, but local characters in town seem to have a vested interest in how the final chapter of Kathleen’s life plays out. Right from the beginning Jacqueline finds herself drawn deeply into the real-life mystery of Kathleen Darcy herself and what really happened to her - which, oddly enough, no one else seems to be all that interested in.
I’ve read this a couple of times over the years, so I listened to it on audiobook through my account with audible.com. Most of Peters/Michaels’ books are narrated by one particular actress, Barbara Rosenblatt, who embodies the voices so well that I’ve come to think of her as Peters/Michaels herself. Peters only wrote five Kirby books, which is unfortunate because they’re among her best. It seems very obvious to me that the character of Jacqueline Kirby is at least a partial self-portrait of Peters/Michaels/Mertz (she even refers to herself at one point, when going through a mental list of authors who were cat fanciers: ‘Mark Twain, Louisa May Alcott, Barbara Michaels…’, which made me smile. Her intelligent humor and excellently fleshed-out characters make these books genuine pleasures to read (or listen to) over and over again.