About the author: Carolyn Wells (1862-1942) was married to Hadwin Houghton, the heir of the Houghton-Mifflin publishing empire. Like Mary Roberts Rinehart, being in a publishing family created an easy pipeline for getting her works into print. She wrote a total of more than 170 books, including 61 Fleming Stone detective stories. See this Wikipedia article.
- Myra Heath, 29
- Perry Heath, her husband
- Herrick, their butler, head of the servants
- Lawrence "Larry" Inman, her distant cousin
- Berenice "Bunny" Moore, 21, the cute little blonde
- Mrs. Emily Prentiss, the nosy, insomniac neighbor
- Todhunter "Toddy" Buck, Emily's nephew, self-appointed detective
- Alexander Cunningham, amateur detective appointed by the Country Club
- Sam Anderson, Country Club member
- Detective Mott, of the police
- Steve Truitt, a private detective
Locale: Gaybrook Harbor, A seaside town on Long Island, NY
Myra Heath runs her Gaybrook Gardens bungalow home in precise and exacting manner. She and her husband, Perry Heath, an artist, have two house guests: Her distant cousin Larry Inman, and little ingenue Bunny Moore. Meanwhile, Larry Inman is in love with Myra; and Perry (knowing this), courts after Bunny - "All were of broad and tolerant views", indeed! Myra also collects old bottles.
One night the Heath marital problems come to a head when Perry catches Myra and Larry together. The next morning, Myra is found dead on the studio floor, struck down with one of her antique bottles. Perry is nowhere to be found. Adding to the mystery: Myra - a non-user of cosmetics - is found quite painted up and decorated, and the vanity box containing the cosmetics missing.
The neighbor, Emily Prentiss, couldn't sleep and while watching the Heath home out her window, had observed lights in the night when the murder occurred. Her nephew, Todhunter Buck, becomes quite taken with Bunny.
Buck decides to solve the crime for himself, and teams up with Alexander Cunningham, appointed by the nosy Country Club who wonder where their member Heath went. Police Detective Mott questions people without result, and Buck brings in his old pal, private detective Steve Truitt.
The first chapter describes the locale of Gaybrook Harbor, which is clearly divided in two sections: Harbor Park, where the posh uppity old-money live; and Harbor Gardens, a Bohemian artist community in their eclectic bungalow homes. The descriptions sound exactly like so many coastal communities in Maine, and the description of the bungalow home is completely familiar.
There are only three possible suspects: Bunny, Inman, and Heath; and suspicion flips to each many times. When it appears that only one remains viable, a surprise turn explains everything in a satisfying manner.
The only drawback of the novel is the plethora of detectives (four!): Mott, of the police; Truitt, a P.I.; and the two amateurs Buck and Cunningham.