The year is 1881, and an athletic-looking President of the United States—barely four months in office—steps nimbly down from the presidential carriage as it pulls up to the bustling Washington Train Depot. The president will shortly board a train that will take him to a refreshingly cooler New England where he’s scheduled to speak at his beloved alma mater, Williams College. A shot rings out. At first no one thinks much about it, for it’s always noisy at Washington’s busy train station. But then a second sharp report is heard, and the president drops in his tracks. He remains alive for nearly three months as White House doctors repeatedly issue reassuring reports of his improving health. Then, on September 19, the nation is again plunged into gloom, when it learns that the president has suddenly passed away.
Three years later, the scene shifts to a stately old mansion in the historic section of Salem, Massachusetts, where wealthy, but controversial magazine publisher Martin Van Zandt hosts a sumptuous dinner for the board members of his highly successful publication. The dinner party quickly deteriorates into a shouting match as disgruntled board members trade accusations with the hated publisher. Before the night is over, Van Zandt will be found dead, apparently the victim of a botched burglary.
Another scene shift takes the reader to an elegant townhouse in Boston’s Beacon Hill section, where journalist James Christopher, Martin Van Zandt’s nephew, receives an unexpected visit from his adopted cousin Samantha. Samantha, Van Zandt’s daughter, believes that her father was murdered by a member of the board and not by a burglar. She appeals to James, known for his investigative skills, to get to the bottom of her father’s death. Thus begins a process of inquiry and detection that takes us from Salem to Boston to Washington.Read previous articleRead next article