St. Martin's, Jun 2003, 23.95, 304 pp.
Boston based Professor Sweeney St. George is considered an expert on Victorian burial practices and rituals, especially the art representations including gravestones. Her friend Toby DiMarco persuades Sweeney to spend her Christmas vacation with his relatives at Byzantium, Vermont, a town that once hosted a former artists' colony.
Sweeney immediately accepts the invitation. She wants to know about the unknown artist who carved a highly artistic but strange looking tombstone commemorating the death of Mary Elizabeth Denholm by drowning in 1890. Sweeney's efforts to identify the stone's sculptor seem about to be rewarded when a descendent of the deceased Ruth Kimball offers to provide information. However, before Ruth can deliver, someone kills her, but no one seems too excited over the homicide. Sweeney, assisted by another visitor, turns to Tennyson in a quest for a clue to a killer who will murder again to keep some things secret.
Sarah Stewart Taylor's debut novel is entertainingly refreshing because the who-done-it plays a secondary role to the in depth look at the art of death. Cleverly intertwined into the investigative plot is an intriguing analysis of Tennyson, as well as other artists especially from the Victorian period. Fans will appreciate this cleverly crafted fine arts mystery.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner