The elderly Jonathan Lydell III is proud of his family history. He is related to the Virginia Lees (both Light Horse Harry and Robert E. Lee) and to the Custis family (and thus to George Washington). But these connections don’t seem to matter to the current generation. In fact, they seem utterly disinterested in family, history, or position. But for Lydell, family history is the only real thing left, that and his antebellum house. Lydell is committed to restoring the home to its antebellum configuration, complete with a stranger room, an attached room with its own entrance, separately locked and kept for use by unknown travelers. Found in many family homes in the 1800s, the room was intended to protect the family from unsavory guests. Nearly 150 years ago, an inexplicable murder took place in the locked stranger room of the Lydell house. The murderer was never caught. As far as Lydell is concerned, this brutal history just adds to the rich character of the house. But when a new, identical murder is committed in the same room, not even sheriff Ike Schwartz and FBI agent Karl Hedrick can explain it. Why would history repeat itself? What could explain these identical murders? Could the Lydell family history hold the key? The fourth novel in the Ike Schwartz series.
Two locked-room murders, nearly 150 years apart, confound Sheriff Ike Schwartz of Picketsville, Va., in Ramsay's suspenseful fourth regional mystery (after 2007's Buffalo Mountain). Schwartz discovers that both crimes, with sinister undertones of Poe, occurred at the antebellum-era Lydell mansion. The estate's owner, Jonathan Lydell IV, is distraught to find his renovated "stranger room" (a guest room with its own outside entrance) soiled by death and the intrusion of law enforcement. While Schwartz and acting deputy Karl Hedrick (on loan from the FBI) contend with Lydell's condescension and racism, they're soon distracted by a growing meth epidemic, vandalism and even another death in Picketsville. Ramsay skillfully weaves historical fact into his story, all the while blending brisk action with excellent characterization. Schwartz has matured throughout the series, and readers will eagerly await his next adventure.