The Sin Mark

by Margaret Page Hood – published 1963.    Although this is the last in the Fox Island books, its kind of a prequel as Gil Donan isn’t yet on Fox Island. He is mentioned once as having applied for the job as constable for the island.

Tom Caldwell was an off-islander who bought the island, Rolling Stone, and lived there for several years.  He left the island more than 50 years ago under a cloud of mystery and sin, living in sin there with local girl Mariah Winslow who had a large,dark red birthmark on the side of her face, a sin mark, according to the islanders. But every year the tax money for the island arrived nice and neat. Any extra left after the taxes were paid was to go to Mariah who lived alone on the island. Now Tom has died (Mariah three years earlier) and Fernald Clayter, selectman, has received a letter from the lawyer. Tom has set up a fund, interest to be used to pay the taxes on Rolling Stone, property to remain in the name of his estate, not to be sold, and trespassing forbidden. He’s left $25,000 to the township on Fox Island to be used at the discretion of the resident doctor for the benefit of children handicapped by disfigurement or with physical disability. BUT there’s a provisional. A separate letter was sent to the minister with instructions for the provisional, which was to be announced at a town meeting. And thus begins the gossip, anger and accusation throwing that turns the whole town on its head.

I don’t want to tell too much of the story as I’d rather it unfold for you as you read it, and I definitely recommend it as well as all of Hood’s mysteries. There is a great mystery that happened on Rolling Stone that precipitated Tom leaving the island suddenly and Mariah living on there alone and hermit like the rest of her life. Not only does this provisional bring about the truth of what happened on Rolling Stone nearly 50 years ago, but brings to the surface other ‘sins’ hiding on the island among its people. A little different from most mysteries, but fascinating! And of course there’s Hood’s beautiful use of language, sense of place and characters with meat on them.

My mom always sang Go Tell Aunt Rhody to the kids when she would rock them, but she only ever sang part of it and I never did know the whole thing. Mariah sang it in the book and now I know what happened to Aunt Rhody and the old gray goose!

                 Go tell Aunt Rhody, go tell Aunt Rhody,  Go tell Aunt Rhody the old gray goose is dead. She’s worth savin’, she’s worth savin’, she’s worth savin’, to fill a featherbed.

I’ve tried to find a picture of the cover of this book as my old hardback doesn’t have the dust jacket but I couldn’t find not one picture of a cover! I did find a copy of this book for sale at Abebooks that says it included the dust jacket in good condition, so the book drunkard that I am, I had to buy it so I could have the dust jacket and see the cover! But it won’t be here for a couple weeks. All her other books had lovely covers. She wrote one more book, Tequila, set in New Mexico. I’ve ordered it and now I’ll have all her books. I’ve tried and tried to find out info on her online and nothing. But yesterday I found correspondence between her and a woman with the Maine State Library on Maine State Library State Documents. They were written between October 1950 and April 1963. Fascinating! She gave her biography at the request of the woman. I took screen shots of the letter from Ms. Hood and will share it here for you. You can read all the letters here if you like. Ms. Hood was born in Connecticut 1892 and died in 1983, I assume in New Mexico.  Her Great Grandfather lived next door to the Longfellow family in Maine!

Update! I got the book with the dust jacket and now have a picture of the cover! Here it is…

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This book counts towards The Vintage Cover Scavenger Hunt @Bev’s My Readers Block. Silver era 1963 – shadowy or ghostly figure

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Someone Else’s Grave

by Alison 4494096Smith.

‘Miss Adams left her warm and sunny kitchen to drive to the cemetery on Mount Moriah with a load of freshly picked flowers for the graves. She had done this every Memorial Day for forty years.

Later that morning Chief Judd Springfield of the Coolidge Corners police found Miss Adams, again in her kitchen, face down on the white porcelain kitchen table in a pool of brown liquid. There was an ugly dark stain in the gray curls at the back her head.

But she wasn’t dead. Eventually, at the hospital, she could ask the police chief, “Did you go out to the cemetery?”  Judd Springfield said, “Yes, I did. You were right. Something has been going on up there. Someone has buried another body on top of Josiah’s grave.” “You mean,” she said slowly, “a new body?” “Yes.” 

Coolidge Corners wasn’t a big town, and Chief Springfield was a first-rate policeman. the solution of the crime (it was murder, of course) shouldn’t have been so complicated. However, life in Coolidge Corners suddenly became dangerous and almost too eventful, for a good many of its citizens. Perhaps because the murderer was aware of almost everything that was going on almost everywhere.’

This was a solid, absorbing mystery! I read it in one day. I liked the characters and the small town of Coolidge Corners VT. Three murders and two assaults later, Judd needs to catch this killer before anyone else gets hurt or worse killed! But the killer is very crafty and there is very little evidence.

I thought this was the only mystery by Alison Smith but just discovered there is one more Judd Springfield book! I’ve already gone over to Amazon and ordered a used copy! Ms. Smith didn’t start writing books until after four of her five children left home. She wrote children’s books. As a massive mystery lover she finally concluded that she should write a mystery. I’m very glad she did!

Vintage Scavenger Hunt -1983 Silver Era – Tombstone

Murder at the Old Vicarage by Jill McGown

1454913‘A killing blow on the head took the life of Graham Elstow, and the vicar and his wife were more relieved than grieved by their son-in-law’s death. Elstow had beaten their beloved daughter, Joanna, so severely only a few months earlier that she had landed in the hospital, and he had struck her again on the day he died. But murder they deplored, especially in their own home on Christmas Eve.

Much, much worse, it was distressingly clear that the killer had to be someone very close to the household. Yet each of the three was prepared to swear that neither of the other two had had the opportunity to kill Elstow.

It looks like it’s up to that canny police duo of Inspector Lloyd and Detective Sergeant Judy Hill then, to wander through a maze of self-confessed killers, myriad motives, and their own frustrating partnership, to find a murderer with a message…’

This one is the second in the Lloyd and Hill series. I thought it was the first 😦 but it was fine to read on its own. I really enjoyed it. I liked the two detectives and the puzzle was excellent, it could have been any one of them. McGown did a great job of keeping you off balance until the very end. Its one you’ll keep saying just one more chapter until you’ve finished it! My library system has all her books! So I’ll be starting with #1 and reading them in order.

*This book was originally published in 1988 in the UK under the title Redemption. It counts toward Vintage Scavenger Hunt Silver Era for ‘other type of weapon’ and also for Read Scotland 2017 as Ms. McGown was born in Argyll Scotland.