The brutal hit-skip death of a young woman is written off as an accident until 1940s private investigator Maggie Sullivan finds signs pointing to murder. Charlotte Littlefield, a girl with “a past” was about to marry into one of Dayton, Ohio’s, most prominent families and was staying with her future in-laws to get better acquainted and smooth her rough edges. Did someone in the household object to her upcoming union? A frightened, incoherent phone call made moments before she fled to her death suggests another possibility: Charlotte had seen — or heard — something she shouldn’t have.
Maggie picks her way through a mansion filled with suspects. One wing houses a laboratory where the head of the family and his staff work on a hush-hush project which the War Department eagerly awaits as the war in Europe nears its end. Upstairs, his once-vibrant wife languishes in the aftermath of polio. Their three grown children are a tangle of resentments, jealousy, and anger.
A second murder raises the specter of someone targeting the family or one of its members. Undeterred by a black eye from an attack, Maggie tracks down clues in high-class brothels, burlesque theaters, bars, and ivy trellises. Before she can use her last bit of proof, she finds herself in a harrowing cat-and-mouse chase with a killer through surroundings where a misstep will snuff out dozens of lives.
"Early on, I wanted to write more mysteries, specifically a series with a woman P.I. The traditional publishers I worked for kept telling me there just wasn’t enough market for that sort of book. Finally I took a long break from fiction writing. Then I decided to do the Maggie Sullivan mysteries. On my own. I’ve never regretted it."