Heart of Stone
Review: In late August of 1961 Ellie Stone, a reporter for The New Holland Register, is in upstate New York vacationing with her Aunt Lena and Cousin Max in the cabin campgrounds of Cedar Haven on Lake Prospector in the Adirondack Mountains. A short way through the woods is Arcadia Lodge, made up of an association of ten family cabins which had been purchased in the 1930s by a group of New York Jewish scholars and artists, much to the shock and apprehension of the local residents. Within the Arcadia grounds is a community building where young people learn to play musical instruments and perform on occasion, the so-called Camp Orpheus. Between Cedar Haven and Arcadia there is Baxter's Rock, a stony cliff seventy-five feet above the lake with sand and rocks below. It is a place where those who dare dive off and try to land into the waters — not the sand and rock. Over the years some have made it and some have not. One morning as Ellie is sun-bathing on their dock, the chief of police, Ralph Terwilliger, stops by to ask if they had heard any noise from Baxter's Rock. Having said they heard nothing, he then informs Ellie that someone had called in to say that they saw two men jump or fall from the overhang shortly after noon, in Heart of Stone, the fourth mystery in this series by James W. Ziskin.
Chief Terwilliger then asks Ellie if she would go with him, bringing her camera, since he had none, and take pictures at the scene. One body, that of an adult male wearing nothing but boxer shorts was found on the rocks. He was badly bruised and scarred. He was later identified as Karl Marx Merkleson as he was known when he lived in Arcadia. Karl was a long lost friend of the lodge members, who had turned his back at being Jewish, left Arcadia for California, married a Christian woman and changed his name to Charles Morton. The other body, a teenaged boy, Jerry Kaufman, wearing a bathing suit, was on the sand where he had landed. The boy was a violin player in the Camp Orpheus orchestra. What were these two doing together on Baxter's Rock? Did they even know one another? As a child Ellie had visited the camps and played with the children from Arcadia. Now she has renewed her friendships and has even fallen in love with one of her childhood playmates. She was invited to their evening parties of food, lots of alcohol to drink and music, and, of course discussions about the Cold War, communism, socialists and the recently formed John Birch Society. Ellie, ever the reporter and wannabe sleuth, started asking questions of everyone. Some were cooperative and informative, while others distant and reticent to answer any questions. She has now put herself in danger with her enquiries. Will she be able to solve the mystery before she can be stopped by the killer who may treat her to an unexpected cliff dive?
There are many twists and turns in Heart of Stone. For starters, it isn't even clear the two men were murdered; it could have simply been a tragic accident. But there is so much about the scene that troubles Ellie that she is sure the deaths were not accidental. But what would the motive be? Ellie has a hard time believing anyone at the camp could be involved, though that is, however tenuous, the only connection between the two dead men, making her amateur sleuthing all the more complicated. And it seems that sometimes a clue will pop up only to disappear or be dismissed later. Though a little slow going at first, this mystery with a cast of well-developed characters and a tightly woven plot makes for an exciting, interesting read.
Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of The Betz Review for contributing her review of Heart of Stone.
Acknowledgment: Seventh Street Books provided a copy of Heart of Stone for this review.
Review Copyright © 2016 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
No Stone Unturned
Seventh Street Books (Trade Paperback), June 2014
ISBN-13: 9781616148836; ISBN-10: 1616148837
Location(s) referenced in Heart of Stone: Upstate New York
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Heart of Stone by James W. Ziskin — An Ellie Stone Mystery
Publisher: Seventh Street Books
Format: Trade Paperback
Publication Date: June 2016
List Price: $15.95
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Page Author: Lance Wright
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