A lurid crime scene photo of a beautiful woman arrives on mystery writer Bunny Prescott's doorstep with no return address—and it's not the first time she's seen it.Fifty-five years earlier, in the summer of 1945, Ceola Bliss is a lonely twelve-year-old tomboy, mourning the loss of her brother, Robbie, who was declared missing in the Pacific. She tries to piece together his life by rereading his favorite pulp detective story “A Date with Death” and spending time with his best friend, Jay Greenwood. One unforgettable August day, Jay leads Ceola and Bunny to a stretch of woods where he found a dead woman, but when they arrive, the body is gone. They soon discover a local woman named Lily Vellum is missing and begin to piece together the threads of her murder, starting with the photograph Jay took of her abandoned body.As Ceola gets swept up playing girl detective, Bunny becomes increasingly skeptical of Jay. She discovers a series of clues that place doubt on the identity of the corpse and Jay’s story of how he found it, and journeys to Washington, D.C. in search of Lily. In D.C., Bunny is forced to recognize the brutal truth about her dear friend, and sets off a series of events that will bring tragedy to Jay and decades of estrangement between her and Ceola.
Complex and multilayered, Copenhaver's outstanding debut combines a murder mystery with a coming-of-age tale. In 2000, Bunny Prescott, a mystery author living in Washington, D.C., receives an old crime scene photo in the mail from an anonymous source. The photo, which she recognizes, moves her to get back in touch with a person she knew long ago, Ceola Bliss. Flash back to the summer of 1945 in Royal Oak, Va. Jay Greenwood, a wounded soldier and avid photographer, shows Bunny, then 18, and Ceola the 12-year-old sister of his best friend, Robbie, who died in WWII a picture he took of a dead woman he found in the woods outside Royal Oak. When the three go look for the body, they find only a pair of bloody shoes. Jay's connecting the photo to a missing woman in a nearby town raises more questions that Jay is hesitant to answer. Copenhaver's darkly lyrical exploration into the consequences of war and prejudice in small-town America will resonate with readers long after the last page is turned.