by Joshua Wainwright, from Sheila Connolly's Murder at the Mansion, the first of the new Victorian Village Mysteries
I’ve been living in Asheboro, Maryland for nearly a year now, but I’m not really part of the town. I landed here after my divorce became final and the house was sold, because Asheboro was looking for a caretaker for a property it owned, out in the country. No pay, but free lodging, and all I had to do was make sure that the house—really a mansion—remained in good repair and wasn’t bothered by vandals or thieves. Both were easy tasks.
From my perspective it was ideal: I’m a college professor specializing in industrial history of the nineteenth century, and I was working on a book, or maybe it would turn out to be a few long articles in journals, and all I wanted was peace and quiet and a decent Internet connection.
That worked out quite well—until Katherine Hamilton arrived in town. As I said, I haven’t been involved in town matters, so I was shocked to learn that the town was nearing bankruptcy and had called on Katherine—Kate—who had grown up in Asheboro, to help devise a plan to rescue the town and increase its appeal as a tourist destination, with the mansion I was babysitting as one of the prime attractions.
I still might have been able to keep out of it all, but then there was that problem of the body on the front steps. No one blamed me, but I was forced to get involved in determining who had killed the woman. Which Kate and I, working together, succeeded in doing. Along the way we discovered in the attic of the mansion a wonderful collection of letters to and from the last owner of the property, who died a century ago. That’s every historian’s dream—a treasure trove of original sources. What’s more, since the man had been a prosperous factory owner in the town, the material we found fit neatly into my own research, and I found myself drawn into the puzzle.
My sabbatical will be ending at the end of the summer, but I’m guessing that I’ll be returning to Asheboro in the future, because we’ve barely dipped into the collection in the attic. I’ll also admit that I’m intrigued by Kate’s plans, and I want to see if she succeeds in saving the town. She’s an interesting woman, and I’d like to keep in touch with her. I have the feeling that there's a lot more to be discovered in Asheboro.
Murder at the Mansion will be released on June 26th by Minotaur Books
For more details see www.sheilaconnolly.com