Elaine Benson, a successful novelist who let love in the person of an unreliable screenwriter jettison her career, is now divorced, broke, and come to a "primitive, untamed northern forest" on Lake Muskoka to interview for a job. Elderly Miss Moira Madison of the fabulously rich Canadian family wishes to write her memoirs.
Miss Madison isn't interested in a bestseller. She wants to leave a record of her life and most specifically of her years with the Canadian Army Nursing Sisters of World War II. Her service in the British and then European theater was filled with triumphs and bitter losses and forever shaped her life. Can Elaine tell her story working with decades of old documents?
Settling into the family "cottage" and what remains of a lifestyle long gone, Elaine reconnects with her love of researching the past. But somehow her project—she soon discovers the first writer hired oddly drowned in the Lake—stirs someone to murder...
Delany's fine second mystery (after 2005's Scare the Light Away) offers a breath of fresh air from north of the border. Soon after Elaine Benson agrees to assist Miss Moira Madison, who served with the Canadian Army Nursing Sisters during WWII, with her memoirs, Elaine learns that the first writer Moira hired drowned in the lake by Moira's summer "cottage" after less than a week on the job. Later, as members of the privileged Madison clan gather at the cottage in Ontario's Muskoka region for Thanksgiving, tensions mount, culminating in a fire. Elaine suspects that someone will go to great lengths to prevent Moira from revealing certain family secrets. The alternating rhythm of chapters of contemporary narrative and shorter sections of Moira's recollections of life as an army nurse helps build suspense. The striking setting, the picture of the Canadian social elite and several deftly handled subplots make for a richly textured and highly satisfying read.