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.
- Madeleine Van Norman, 22
- Schulyer Carleton, her fiancé
- Cecily Dupuy, her secretary
- Marie, her French maid
- James Harris, her butler
- Tom Willard, her distant cousin
- Mrs. Markham, housekeeper
- Dorothy Burt. companion to Schuyler Carleton's mother
- Miss Elizabeth Morton, a take-charge type
- Robert Fessenden, best man, lawyer, amateur detective
- Fleming Stone, detective
Locale: New Jersey
At age 22, Madeleine Van Norman has already inherited the vast Van Norman mansion, and is poised to marry very proper choice Schulyer Carleton. When she does, according to terms of her late uncle Richard Van Norman's will, she will inherit his fortune - however, if she dies unmarried (just hours left!), the fortune instead goes to her distant cousin Tom Willard, who had been in love with her for years. So what does he love more - her or her money?
It is a moot question. She never makes it to her wedding, and is found stabbed to death the night before. Now Tom Willard inherits Richard's fortune. Next, the lawyer reads Madeleine's will! Surprise, she has left the mansion and grounds to Miss Elizabeth Morton.
The only person who seems to have had opportunity to do the crime is the groom, Schulyer Carleton; but he lacks a motive. The person with the motive, Tom Willard, was not present and thus lacks opportunity.
When a book starts out by describing the terms of a will (page 12), it becomes obvious a murder is in the making! The terms of the two wills are complex.