Death at Woods Hole

Written by Frances McNamara
Review by Ellen Keith

Chicagoan and scholar Emily Cabot has escaped the heat of her hometown to spend the summer of 1894 on Cape Cod, at the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole. Any idea of a peaceful summer with her friends and her beau, Dr. Stephen Chapman, flies out the window when she discovers the drowned body of the disagreeable Lincoln McElroy in one of the lab’s tanks. This was no accident, and there is no shortage of suspects. McElroy and his cronies wanted to sell the lab to Clark University while its scientists wanted to keep it independent. Emily’s best friend Clara Shea is keeping a secret from her, and Stephen is busy with the lab, so Emily attempts to salvage the remainder of the summer by investigating McElroy’s death.

McNamara, a librarian at the University of Chicago, proves, if anyone was asking, that librarians make great historical mystery writers. She captures the tension of the times between the male and female scientists, both professionally and personally as an estimable female scientist is overlooked and Clara allows a “worthier” male to take credit for her discovery. Also so accurately portrayed is that small-town-in-summer feeling, when towns are overtaken by visitors, who coexist uneasily with locals. This was my first Emily Cabot mystery, and as a fellow Chicagoan, I was initially disappointed this was set outside the city, but that feeling didn’t last long. I’d follow Emily to any location.