Faye Longchamp doesn't believe in ghosts, but she's an archaeologist—dead people are her life. Yet while working in Rosebower, a rural New York town founded by Spiritualists, Faye is surrounded by people who talk to the dead on a regular basis. When influential Spiritualist Tilda Armistead invites Faye and her daughter to commune with the dead, Faye can't say no. She's just too curious.
Then an hour after her crystal ball shows Faye things no rational mind can explain, Tilda is dead. The evidence says that someone trapped Tilda in a small room, nailing its one door shut before setting her house afire. There is no possible way for her to have escaped the blaze, let alone drive for miles before finding Faye and dying in her arms. Yet Tilda did. How? And why?
It seems Rosebower is full of people who had reason to kill Tilda. Tilda's estranged daughter is the heir to the Armistead fortune. That daughter's husband is a stage magician with a long history of making things vanish. Against Tilda's wishes, a rich developer would like to turn Rosebower into a Disneyland with real ghosts. And then there is the famed root doctor whose mysterious herbal potions are anywhere else, these people would be dismissed as crazy. In Rosebower, "normal" is relative. As Faye watches the psychics and charlatans jockey for power, Tilda's sister, Myrna, is slowly dying. Will Rosebower reveal its secrets before more goes up in flames?
A superior puzzle plot lifts Evans's eighth Faye Longchamp mystery (after 2012's Plunder). Archeologist Faye and her 17-year-old adopted daughter, Amande, have a job to do in Rosebower, N.Y., a town "with a history full of Spiritualists, religious reformers, and radical feminists." Not long after they've begun their work separating decades of donated junk at the local museum, Faye and Amande have a murder mystery on their hands. Medium Tilda Armistead is the victim of arson, dying of smoke inhalation after escaping a fire set at her home, but in addition to the obvious question of whodunit, Faye must resolve the related one of "why a dying agoraphobic who had traveled only a couple thousand miles since 1972 had driven thirty miles to ask a relative stranger for help." And what's a retired magician, known for debunking others' tricks, doing in town? Evans pulls all the pieces nicely together in the end.