On a gloomy old California estate, the Cameron heirs confront greed, madness, and murder
In the heyday of silent cinema, Cameron Heights was billed as the “California Wonder Town.” A sprawling development of lavish bungalows, its streets were named after film stars, its houses decorated with Hollywood finery. Fifteen years later, it’s a ghost town, and the spirit who rules over it is more disturbing than any horror that has ever haunted the silver screen. Elderly eccentric Joel Cameron has more money than he knows what to do with, and heirs too greedy for words. One Christmas, they convene at Cameron Heights, hoping to have the old man declared mad and the inheritance divided accordingly. But when part of the house goes up in flames—taking old Joel with it—there arises the question of who set the fatal fire, and which family member will be left with nothing but ashes.
“Good reading.” —Kirkus Reviews “Most extraordinary . . . Strongly recommended.” —The New York Times “Full of fun and delightful people. A really terrific plot.” —The Chicago Daily News, on Four Lost Ladies
Stuart Palmer (1905–1968) was an American author of mysteries. Born in Baraboo, Wisconsin, Palmer worked a number of odd jobs—including apple picking, journalism, and copywriting—before publishing his first novel, the crime drama Ace of Jades, in 1931. It was with his second novel, however, that he established his writing career: The Penguin Pool Murder introduced Hildegarde Withers, a schoolmarm who, on a field trip to the New York Aquarium, discovers a dead body in the pool. Withers was an immensely popular character, and went on to star in thirteen more novels, including Miss Withers Regrets (1947) and Nipped in the Bud (1951). A master of intricate plotting, Palmer found success writing for Hollywood, where several of his books, including The Penguin Pool Murder, were filmed by RKO Pictures Inc.