Poisoned Pen, Aug 2008, $24.95
In 1864, The Staunton Spectator newspaper reported that a traveler Mister Franklin Brian was found murdered in the stranger room attached to the Bolton home of Captain Jonathan Lydell, Now a century and half later, elderly Jonathan Lydell IV informs the local sheriff department that someone murdered guest Anton Grotz in his restored antebellum mansion’s stranger room with the key inside sealing shut the room.
Picketsville, Virginia Sheriff Ike Schwartz with the able help of FBI loaner acting deputy Karl Hendrick investigates the apparent modern day locked room homicide; they find a connection to the cold case Civil War era killing and eerily Poe. As they dig deeper while working other crimes, Jonathan displays his outrage that the cops are turning his estate into a crime scene as he overtly displays his racism and his superiority, but fails to deter Ike or Karl from performing their job.
Using the STRANGER ROOM historical concept of a place attached yet totally separated from a house as the basis for a contemporary locked room police procedural, Frederick Ramsay provides a fabulous investigative tale. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Jonathan and his bed and breakfast employee Mrs. Antonelli fail to rouse the guest and never slows down. The cast is solid especially the “Old Virginian” Jonathan with his don’t call me Jon instead call me Mr. attitude. Fans will appreciate this strong regional police procedural (see SECRETS and BUFFALO MOUNTAIN for Ike’s previous Virginia cases).