When Charlotte Diamond retired to Diamond Cottage near Maryland’s eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay, she thought she had left her life of crime—solving it, that is—behind her, and is struggling to find a new purpose in life. But the small waterfront community of Hopewell on the Choptank, with its wealthy artistically inclined inhabitants, is hiding old crimes and dark secrets beneath its outward quiet and affluence.
A surprising number of people from the community have intersecting pasts and dark secrets that Charlotte is unaware of and that become downright murderous, coming to a head when blockbuster movie actress, Brenda Brandon, arrives in the village in full retreat from a recent tragedy in her life. Brenda also brings unexpected romance into Charlotte’s previously straight life. And Sam, the neglected husky who has attached himself to Charlotte, knows more about what is going on than he can tell her, even with his howling.
She could see, though, when she opened the front door, that it would be a while before she’d be able to read the Sun—and that she’d have to read it outside—because she discovered a wet and muddy-pawed Sam curled up on top of it in the center of the brick walk from the street to her door. The local paper was nowhere to be found, which wasn’t all that surprising, as delivery times for that were erratic.
“Where have you been, Sam?” Charlotte asked, as he lifted his head dreamily, fighting to raise himself up from sleep and gave her a loving smile. “And what have you got around your neck?”
Charlotte leaned down to find that Sam was attached to his leash still. Charlotte thought this was strange—not just that a dog Susan had let run free was wearing a leash, but also that if she’d taken him out on the leash, why had she left it on him? Charlotte didn’t want to criticize as it was an indication that Susan was trying to do the right thing—but leaving him out with a leash on his neck? Really. He could snag it on something and choke himself.
Charlotte took one end of the leash, and Sam raised up and followed her—quite willingly—as, in her robe and slippers, she marched across the still-wet grass between her cottage and the Wells’ house and rapped on the front door. She was in the mood to give Susan a dressing down for her neglect of the dog and was fully prepared to tell her that she was going to report the treatment to the Wellses, even if they were in Turkey and not really able to do much about it—and she intended to carry through with the threat, if need be.
But there was no answer to her knocking. And there was no answer either when Charlotte moved around to the back door. Being who she was—and not the least because she was tall enough to look inside them, Charlotte went around the walls of the house to look into the interior through the windows that weren’t covered with curtains—but there was no sign of Susan inside.