This novel is set in Washington, DC and also in Rehoboth Beach and Lewes, Delaware. These were my favorite haunts for many years, when I lived in Washington, managing my convention and trade show consultancy.
In this third mystery, Zanna Armstrong is managing a huge international Fine Art and Craft Convention, with the capable help of her sister, artist and teacher Maddie Armstrong.
Exhibit move-in seems to be going smoothly, when a fight breaks out near the hotel’s loading dock. Apparently, famous Canadian artist Pierre Luray has been painting fellow artists’ wives in the nude.
Despite solemn promises to the models, Luray brings the nude paintings to the convention. He displays them near windows in his white van, while waiting to unload. Mayhem ensues when the artists spot the paintings, and discover what Luray and their wives have been doing.
Zanna and Maddie meet with the artists and try to calm them down. They remind Luray that nude paintings are not allowed in the show, and suggest he lock them away immediately, covering them so no one can identify them. To buy time, Zanna offers to contact the program committee, and seek clarification of the rules regarding nude paintings.
Within hours, an artist is dead. The police take charge, with capable young Lieutenant Danny O’Neill heading the investigation. Zanna and Maddie rush to help police find the killer, but most important, the show must go on! Despite their best efforts, another murder occurs.
Back home in Armstrong Crossing, SC, parents Phil and Louisa Armstrong have heard the news about the death of an artist. They know that longtime friend Sheriff Ray Wilson is headed to Washington on business. They ask him to check on their two daughters. He is accompanied by Beau Armstrong, brother and boon companion of Zanna’s youth. Also, dear friend Fred Daley has recently been transferred to Washington, as General Manager of the convention hotel.
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Surrounded by friends and family, Zanna and Maddie begin to feel more secure. Then visitors arrive from Montreal: Pierre Luray’s creepy brother Claude; followed by Claude’s terrified wife Valerie.
As the convention draws to a close, nearly all Luray paintings are stolen from the exhibit hall. The Armstrongs join police in a wild chase to catch the suspects, and reclaim the priceless art work.
All paths lead to Rehoboth Beach and Lewes, Delaware, where the ferry boat makes frequent trips to and from Cape May, New Jersey. With three possible destinations, the wild chase requires fast cars, careful planning and coordination by police, Armstrongs and friends.
In Sara Elliott Sommerville's
DEATH OF A KEYNOTE SPEAKER
Zanna goes to the Speakers Lounge, to be sure the speakers have checked in. At the door, she hears an angry exchange between the keynote speaker, and another doctor. “Have you lost your mind?
NOTE FROM SARA: In real life, I have managed conventions and trade shows of all sizes in Washington, San Francisco, New York, Dallas, and Atlanta; and also in Canada, England, Ireland and Scotland.
The ancient mill pond is cooled by cypress trees and Spanish moss, but the Armstrong grist mill is steamy with activity. The neighbors are arriving by mule and wagon, to grind corn. Their friendly chatter is interrupted by someone's shout. "Looka yonder. Ain't that a body in the water?"