Hotel Paradise (Emma Graham Series #1)by Martha Grimes
A neglected lake, covered with water lilies and rimmed by blowing grass. A once fashionable, now fading resort hotel. A derelict house full of secrets and dusty furnishings, uninhabited for almost half a century. The death-by-drowning of a twelve-year-old girl forty years in the past. And another twelve-year-old girl who grows increasingly obsessed with this death.… See more details below
A neglected lake, covered with water lilies and rimmed by blowing grass. A once fashionable, now fading resort hotel. A derelict house full of secrets and dusty furnishings, uninhabited for almost half a century. The death-by-drowning of a twelve-year-old girl forty years in the past. And another twelve-year-old girl who grows increasingly obsessed with this death. With her knack for encouraging adults to reminisce, she begins to put together the pieces of a past and present puzzle. Hotel Paradise is a delicate yet excruciating view of the decisions a young girl must make on her way to becoming an adult and the choices she must make between right and wrong, between love and truth, between life and death.
There's plenty to do around La Porte's Hotel Paradise, the small-town hostelry Emma Graham's family has run for a hundred years. Despite her youth, Emma's mother has her helping in the kitchen and waiting tables for the few customers who keep the Paradise in business. But there's not much to think about, and it's no wonder that Emma, spellbound by the recent apparition of a mysterious blond girl, fixes on the story of Mary-Evelyn Devereau, drowned in Spirit Lake when she was 12, Emma's own age. What was Mary-Evelyn doing out alone in a boat at night, wearing one of her best dresses, and why didn't her family report her missing till the next morning? Idly at first, then with a deepening passion, Emma launches an investigation into this forgotten mystery, eagerly questioning anyone who remembers Mary- Evelyn, and poring over every scrap of physical evidence she can find. Extravagant obstacles stand in the way of an inconsequential girl's attempts at detection: Barely anybody around La Porte seems to remember or care about the case at all, and they certainly aren't about to share their recollections with the likes of her. Yet Emma, as a friendly fortuneteller assures her, is "resolute" enough to endure the indifference of everyone in La Porte but Sheriff Sam DeGheyn and to interrogate a pair of subverbal brothers, call endless taxis to nearby Cold Flat Junction, and confront a newly released convict in a magical climax.
The originality herethe convention of a radically disempowered detective set against a densely imagined but indifferent worldwill remind some readers of Barbara Vine, others of the Henry James of "In the Cage" and The Awkward Age. It shows off Grimes's gifts for extravagant digression beautifully.
Read an Excerpt
from Chapter One, pp. 3-4:
It's a blowing day. The wind feels weighted and the air like iron. As I walked the half-mile to the lake this evening, I could hardly push against this heaviness that settled on me like a coat of snow.
I have been sitting on this low mossy wall for an hour, but I can't see the Devereau house, or if there is any light in it. The woods are so thick by the spring, they blot out the other side of the lake like ink spilled across the page I'm reading. This time I brought a book; I mean to wait, though I don't think he'll be back.
I wonder now if there are mysteries never meant to be solved. Or not meant to be solved to a certainty, for I do have some idea of what must have happened near White's Bridge. I've found out the answers to a lot of questions, but those answers pull more questions out of hiding, ones I never would have thought to ask.
I think I know how Fern died and who killed her. But I don't know why, exactly. I have to guess at the why. Even if I was absolutely sure, I would still not tell the police, not even the Sheriff. Some things mean more than the law. I have not sat through all of Clint Eastwood's old westerns for nothing. Clint doesn't always hound a rustler to his grave, not if there's a reason to let him off more important than a dozen law-abiding reasons to arrest him. Call it cowpoke justice. I hear people say "It's between me and my conscience," but I think it's awful risky to go by your conscience, for your conscience can be pretty leaky. I think Clint would agree.
Anyway. That was the decision I made this morning, not to tell the Sheriff, and it weighs mighty heavily upon me. What I discovered overthe past couple of weeks is that what I think is a difficult decision to make is really a difficult decision to make. And what I think is hard and painful is truly hard and painful.
I guess that doesn't sound like much learnt, but I think it is.
From the Paperback edition.
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