by Timothy Lane
Brown’s mysteries could be rather gritty at times, and this one is no exception. It starts when a young woman named Jenny faces death in the form of a man coming after her with a knife. She opens the door behind her and starts to run . . . and there the prologue ends, to be followed by events 8 years later.
George Weaver is looking for a place for the summer in Taos, and he finds himself in the very house where Jenny Ames had gone to be married and found a rather different fate awaiting her. His friend Luke, who writes true crime stories for the magazines, tells him about the case and its tragic ending (long after the killer, a tubercular artist named George Nelson, had left – never to be found again – her decomposed body had turned up).
Weaver likes the scenery and decides to stay there with his wife, but eventually begins to run into the problem of what to do for all that time. However lovely the scenery, it’s always the same scenery, and his wife spends all her time eating chocolates and watching romances on TV, so she’s not much help either. Luke suggests that he look into the murder case, and perhaps even write it up himself.
Weaver proves to be a clever sort. Realizing that Jenny’s killer wouldn’t have taken her luggage very far to dispose of it, he finds a likely spot, starts digging, and locates her luggage. From this, he’s able to find out why the mysterious Jenny really was and where she came from. It turns out that Jenny Albright’s parents still live where they had when she ran away to meet her strange fate. Weaver (fascinated by Jenny and less than thrilled with the parents who drove her away) goes there to give them a brief (and disturbing) version of what happened to her.
Eventually, however, something strange turns up. Jenny Albright was a natural blonde, though she dyed her hair brunette for a bit of disguise when she fled. But the body had been that of a natural brunette – in other words, not Jenny after all. George Nelson apparently had done this more than once. This even leaves open the possibility that Jenny might have escaped her would-be killer (his health might have enabled her to outrun him).
And this leads Weaver to a conclusion that, under the cicrcumstances, he finds horrifying – exactly what might have happened to Jenny, and in particular who she might have become. And so the book ends just as it began – and just as ambiguously.
Here are five other public domain books by Fredric March.
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