Claire Godwin has always been a paler shadow of her vivacious, larger-than-life foster sister, Melinda Varek. Melinda is always the one who comes up with some madcap plan and Claire inevitably follows, just as she has this time. Melinda has been missing for over a year. She just suddenly disappeared after performing in a play about Elizabeth Spenser, a beautiful young woman who was hanged for being a witch in the 17th century. Everyone has tried to persuade Claire that Melinda just got tired of mending old tapestries in Sommerstowe and decided to travel somewhere else, but Claire knows there is something terribly wrong. She finally finishes out the school year, closes up the library, and takes the job of repairing embroidery at Sommerstowe Hall, a large mansion owned by the National Trust that is being restored to function as a museum.
Claire immediately contacts the police who investigated Melinda's disappearance when she arrives in England, but Inspector Blake informs her that without a body, there is nothing more they can do. When Claire arrives in Sommerstowe and unpacks in the little room she is renting - the very same one Melinda stayed in when she was there - she finds a threatening note stuffed under the carpet and suddenly the investigation is open again. Alec Wood, the Summerstowe police force, takes Claire's fears seriously, but there is little he can do after he has the note tested for fingerprints, etc. Or is there? For, once Claire has all of Sommerstowe riled up about Melinda's disappearance, Alec uses a map and a type of divining rod to discover that Melinda is in the rose garden at Sommerstowe. Surprisingly, Alec is right and they have found what remains of Melinda - but who killed her?
Richard Lacey, the handsome conservation architect who is in charge of restoring the hall, had a fight with Melinda the night that she died and everyone knows that there was something going on between them, don't they? After all, the body was buried on Richard's beloved estate in the rose gardens he helped dig. But then, why was he being blackmailed? And if Melinda was the blackmailer, why did the notes continue after she died? Claire desperately wants to believe that Richard is innocent because there is a strong attraction to them, but who else could have killed Melinda? Turns out there are plenty of suspects in the seemingly peaceful English town: Alec Wood, the helpful policeman, had a date to meet Melinda in the garden at midnight, and he is a practicing wiccan; Elliot Moncrief, the play's volatile director had ample time and opportunity and he and Melinda used to play around together; Diana & Rob Jackman, the owners of the popular pub, The Druid's Circle, seemed to hate Melinda and she was always working in their bar so maybe they saw something they didn't like in Melinda's developing book...? The players are all assembled and, as the real play finishes its yearly run again, Claire is certain that the killer will strike again...but who and where?
This was a thrilling romantic suspense novel with a touch of the paranormal added to make it even better. The mystery was very well developed and Carl really keeps the reader guessing with all of her characters. Every time you turn around there is another motive that pops up into place, all seemingly innocent events that, when looked at in another light, are quite sinister. This was the best part of the book because everything was so suspenseful as anyone could have done it and many people didn't like Melinda, though for very different reasons. I also thought that Carl did a great job in making many smaller mysteries to surround the big mystery of who killed Melinda, this kept the plot moving forward and the reader guessing. I enjoyed getting to know all of the characters and Claire's developing confidence in herself and her hunches was very convincing also. The setting was fun, the details surrounding the plot were solid and well developed, the romance moved slowly, but seemed better that way - a great novel!
This report prepared by Debbie