Gilpatrick's outstanding first novel, winner of the first annual ``Malice Domestic'' contest, is set on an unnamed island off the coast of Washington State. What should be an idyllic retreat turns into a treacherous environment for Paul Whiteman, an ex-concert pianist anonymously hired by wealthy islander Ben Murdoch to repair and rebuild mysteriously damaged pianos. The world-weary Whitman arrives lamenting his failed marriage to a demanding wife. At first, he has no clue as to his elusive employer's identity. Almost immediately, however, Paul learns that something is amok on the island--all the strings from the battered pianos are missing, he has a near-fatal accident in the woods and the old-time islanders are keeping a close eye on him. Town gossip Grace Duncan becomes Paul's only confidant, revealing to him the islanders' secrets. Paul ties together clues when he learns more about Murdoch's family tragedy: his mercurial Swedish wife, a talented pianist, left him, sending their semiretarded son, Jason, into a tailspin of rage and, as many islanders suspect, murder. With deft pacing, Gilpatrick keeps the reader on edge as the death toll continues to rise. Only Paul is astute enough to find holes in the theory blaming grisly attacks with piano strings on Jason, a realization that brings him face to face with the devastating truth. An auspicious debut. (Apr.)
Winner in 1990 of the first annual ``Malice Domestic'' contest (awarded by St. Martin's for best first traditional mystery manuscript at the Malice Domestic writers convention), this enticing and well-thought-out work occurs on an isolated Puget Sound island community. Surrounded by morose and watchfully ominous islanders, new arrival Paul Whitman, hired to restore three pianos, suspects some kind of conspiracy. Discovery of a corpse (the former piano restorer--strangled with piano string) and subsequent piano string murders provoke everyone into action. Persuasive descriptions, sympathetic characters, deceptive subplots, incipient romance, and slow-rising suspense should make this a popular addition to any collection.