A free-lance writer delves into an unsolved murder from 50 years ago, while staying at the same house wherein the murder was committed. And as he burrows into the past, shadows gather around him: there may be someone who doesn’t want this murder solved; and the curious writer may be lining himself up to be the next victim.
Such is the plot of Only in New England, a 1959 book by Theodore Roscoe. You can’t call it a novel because it’s based on a true crime. But you can’t call it non-fiction because the author very much fictionalized characters and settings so as to protect a real community, and real people, from losing their privacy.
Roscoe was an official historian of the U.S. Navy and also wrote for various magazines. This novel, if it is a novel, is an amazing piece of work. It’s told first-person, Roscoe himself being the investigator, and so deftly managed that the reader sees the possible threat to the narrator long before the story-teller seems aware of it.
Well, we know he couldn’t have written the book if he got murdered before he could solve the ancient crime–we do know that, don’t we? But our knowledge doesn’t keep the suspense from mounting steadily, page by page.
I know I’ve said this before, but Only in New England would have made a great classic of a movie–black-and-white, of course, starring Joseph Cotten, and directed by either Otto Preminger or Alfred Hitchcock. This is surely one of the best movies that was never made.
Only in New England is available on line through abebooks and a few other used book services.You’ve probably never read it, so order a copy and give yourself a treat. Hey, where is it written that you can’t have an after-Christmas present?