Deadly Summer Nights (A Catskill Summer Resort Mystery)

Written by Vicki Delany
Review by Jon G. Bradley

Notwithstanding the murder of a guest at Haggerman’s Resort in the heart of the Catskill region, this narrative offers the reader a colourful and complicated tapestry of summer vacation life eight years after the end of World War II. A singular murder in the dead of night is orchestrated on a landscape that is a labyrinth of interconnected strains: a small town dealing with beau monde invaders, gender and societal norms clashing with emerging new trends, growing tension over fear of “communism,” secret trysts in the afternoon, along with the horror of horrors – a female bartender! Many uncertainties move and shift within this environment.

Delany adeptly brings the reader into a world long gone which previously flourished in southeastern New York State. The drama of owning and running a resort becomes even more complicated when a murder occurs. Local sensibilities clash as two dramas unfold; namely, there is one narrow strand of a murder to resolve while the larger, overarching societal dramas continue to swirl.

The untimely death of a former professor turned writer-seeking-solace presents a myriad of human difficulties and challenges to the smooth running of Haggerman’s. Local incompetent policing combined with business competition, along with past incidents, creates an environment which thwarts rather than benefits.

The detail regarding social life in the mid-1950s is magical. Readers will relish the telephone etiquette, dining dress codes, undergarments, culinary dishes, specialty cocktails, neatly folded handkerchiefs, and family relationships. The reality that the reader knows that these conventions, so fastidiously followed, are doomed adds a sense of foreboding to the evolving tale. The denouement does bring some justice to the fore, but also offers tantalizing clues to interesting possibilities for the mother-daughter team at Haggerman’s.