In The Prime of Death
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When divers bring up a well-dressed corpse from the Brook Hollow Community Pond, fear grips the residents of the upscale exurban enclave—mostly Boomers at mid-life. It takes the creative mind of Matt Hapgood (one of the community’s few elders), plus the derring-do of a younger neighbor and friend, to discern a meticulously planned kidnap/murder plot, but in time? More
Draped around the northern corner of Washington DC, affluent Montgomery County, Maryland, stretches out beyond the crowded suburbs to meadow, farm, and forest, interspersed with the estates of the wealthy—and the nearly so.
The Brook Hollow community is nearly so, a wooded tract platted and sold to families who built their homes on large, secluded lots--Boomers, most of them, queasy in the turbulent air of midlife, and here, in their exurban enclave, bound together by the legal covenants of the Brook Hollow Community Assn., Inc.
Old enough to be their father is Matt Hapgood, the reluctant community president, a duty repeatedly thrust upon him at annual meetings. Hapgood, a former magazine editor, and wife, Lori, enjoy retirement in their dream home in the woods, both in good health, although Matt experiences occasional dizzy spells from an old war injury.. They gamely accept their role as house-parents to the community.
When residents complain about water overflowing the community’s recreational pond, Hapgood and his impetuous younger friend and neighbor, the newly divorced Raimundo Burk, call in divers to find the cause. To the shock of residents gathered on the dam, the divers find the drainage pipe blocked by the corpse of a young black man in a three-piece suit—-and a bullet in the head. .
He turns out to be the driver of a company car sent by Globe General Corp. to pick up a GloGen vice-president, Brook Hollow resident Graham MacGregor, for a flight to San Diego in the company jet. Days later Martha MacGregor reveals that her husband never got to San Diego, but has been kidnapped by terrorists who demand that the company pay a huge ransom or he will suffer the same fate as his driver.
Brook Hollow is further shaken by late-night forays of a prowler who enters the home of the divorced Vee Lynwood, but flees into the woods when her alarm goes off and light floods the premises. Two witnesses say he wore all black, but was barefooted. “Barefoot” hysteria grips the community as residents report more sightings. .
At an emergency meeting of Brook Hollow members in a church basement, blasphemous Oliver Feaster, a racist bully, accuses Hapgood and the police of covering up the identity of the killer/prowler who, he says, is the alienated MacGregor son, Donald, whose whereabouts no one knows. Police Detective Kenneth Winfield has to prevent a fight between Feaster and Burk, who rises to defend his friend, the gentle Martha MacGregor.
Suspects abound, among them the missing son; a white-supremacist gang raising funds for the revolution; a night-prowling farm handyman; a drug ring with a unique distribution system by helicopter; Vee Lynwood’s languid ex-husband, suddenly jealous and bent on reclaiming his wife; and the odious Oliver Feaster.
But with his own observations and clues gathered daringly by Burk, Hapgood discerns a pattern of events and behaviors that leads him to the killer, who is about to board a plane for London with his new love.
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