Pandemic death turns out to be murder

This selecting books from the middle of a series is getting to be a habit. This week it was “A Plague Among Us” by Deb Pines. It is number eight out of 10, so I missed a great deal of the village and family backstory. But it did stand alone OK.

The artsy, vacation community of Chautauqua, New York, is slowly recovering from the COVID quarantines. Residents use masks and keep social distances, but they are finally able to spend time together. Mimi Goldman and her fellow reporters have done a great job of finding newsworthy stories, but they are eager to get back to real reporting.

A natural born investigator, Mimi and her 90-year-old friend Sylvia have actually solved several cases, even if the police won’t acknowledge their contributions.

Mimi is shocked when Sylvia tells her that Al Martin has died from COVID. The Martin family has had a “cottage” in Chautauqua for ages. Al’s father had founded a company making medical supplies, but when Al took over, he invented a special mesh for hernia repairs. Al sold out for millions and retired at 48.

But there is a dark side to his success. His younger brother Conor invented a mesh for women with incontinence. It was widely used until women began dying. Conor was sued, and Al did nothing to help him. His life ruined, Conor committed suicide leaving his widow, Terry, and daughter, Anna, destitute. Still, Al refused to help.

At the time of his death, Al was writing an often-cruel blog about Chautauqua residents. He listed what he considered the plagues afflicting the community. His ex-wife Amy, neighbor Rob, Mimi and Sylvia were among his targets, but no one gave a hoot until Al’s sister Shannon called to ask Mimi to find out if Al really died of COVID.

She believes he was poisoned. Al had called her complaining that his home was being visited by plagues, such as locusts in his bedroom and bath water suddenly turning red. When his symptoms got worse, he insisted that someone was trying to kill him.

The Martin family had never been close, so Shannon feared the worst. When Al first got sick, his brothers Patrick and Sean were caring for him. Then Sean hired Kelly when their former housekeeper quit without notice.

Al was extremely unpopular, so Mimi has plenty of potential suspects, yet few people are willing to talk about him. A big question is why was Al cremated when he was passionate about tissue donation? Why did Patrick ask the local undertaker to meet him at the hospital when Al was transported? What is Kelly’s background? Why did Shannon suddenly tell Mimi to drop the investigation?

No matter how many questions appear, Mimi doggedly follows every lead. Using her intuition and the talents of a friend, Mimi commissions an age progression portrait of Anna Martin. The way Al treated Terry and Anna after Conor’s death would have given the girl ample motive to take revenge, but would she do it?

Young Kelly is about the right age and keeps a unique birthmark hidden under her COVID mask. Kelly/Anna came to Chautauqua planning to kill Al by putting Visine in his food. She saw how sick it made him and changed her mind. Sadly, the real killers did not stop.

As the story ends, Mimi, Sylvia and their friends reflect on how things have turned out. All agree that charges against Anna would be appropriate, but they also feel that Anna has suffered too much already. Only time will tell how this chapter of the Martin family saga will resolve.

Good investigators come in all sizes, shapes, colors and age groups. It is the same for good writers. Stop by your public library soon so you can check it all out.


Book: “A Plague Among Us” (Mimi Goldman Chautauqua Mysteries, Book 8)

Author: Deb Pines

Publisher: Deb Pines

Year Published: 2021

Number of Pages:274