What I don’t know:
Title, author or any character names Possibly published 2013-2016
What I remember. It is a lot!!
Protagonist drives into a small town where she either grew up or visited her aunt in the summer. She pauses and looks at a house she was always fascinated by and notices that it looks vacant. She learns that the old man who owned it (I think he was either a shut in or a hermit) died and that the house is indeed vacant. She wants to buy it and transform it into a B&B. She learns that the town owns it now as it was taken for unpaid taxes. She tries to buy it and is told by someone at Town Hall that the house isn’t clear for them to sell, but they won’t tell her why,
The editor of the local newspaper has retired. She used to work for him at the paper. He lives at the top of a hill and now runs a wastewater recycling facility. She thinks it’s an odd occupation for him, but he likes it. She tells him about the house and that she snuck a peek at the record the town has about the house and that she learned it has something to do with the man’s will. The retired editor tells her to find the man’s lawyer. She asks how to do that, and he gives her a name and tells her that he is the only lawyer in town. She learns from the lawyer that the man’s will states that he has left behind something valuable that would pay the property taxes and leave an inheritance for only his favorite child. The will says that only his favorite child will know where to find it.
The MC (main character) uses her news reporter skills to track down the siblings. I think there were 4 or 5. As adults, the do not get along at all, but they do all come to the house to search. Each believes that they are the favorite child and will find valuable item. They search their own childhood rooms; they search each other’s rooms. They move paintings on the walls and portraits on the wall going up the stairs in search of a hidden safe. Eventually they search outside the house, maybe in a garage or a barn. They argue constantly. One of the men is a heavy drinker. He is also very mean.
Meanwhile, the MC is running the place like a B&B for the siblings with an older woman (I think her aunt) helping, but the aunt has a bad leg and often has to rest. There is a group of gypsies or nomads in town. They come each year. One of them, a young woman comes to the door looking for a cleaning job, but the aunt (?) tells the MC not to hire any of them because they are not trustworthy, and she can do all the work herself.
After the outdoor search the siblings (and some of them have brought spouses), agree that there is no hidden treasure. They have farewell drinks in the sitting room with the man who is the jerk pouring drinks. One woman passes out with her head hitting the table. The MC (who may have been hiding behind the sofa) thinks that the woman has been poisoned and calls an ambulance. Then she calls the police. The nasty man and the others all go in for questioning while the other woman is taken to the hospital. Eventually they learn that there was no poison, and that the woman had a medical condition. The family is free to leave, which they do.
The MC walks around the house looking for things that need to be cleaned or set right. The sitting room, where the drinks were served, looks tidy but something isn’t quite right. She finally spots it. The rug under the coffee table is askew. Suddenly everything fits into place. She races out of the house to where the gypsies or nomads are set up. Slightly apart from the group is an old van with a dutch door at the side. The door is open and the young woman who came to the house to offer to clean greets her. The MC had hired her to clean without telling her aunt. It comes out that the young woman knew where the valuable item was hidden and took it. She has given it to the gypsies/nomads (I don’t know why). The young woman is in fact the illegitimate daughter of the man who died, and her mother was the man’s doctor who made house calls. The MC runs to the gypsy/nomads’ tents to try to retrieve it as it is her only hope for being able to buy the house. However, the patriarch has died, and his body has already been removed to the crematorium. The remaining people don’t have the item.
The MC leaves a message for the detective who had investigated the possible poisoning and asks him to meet her at the crematorium ASAP as the ceremony is to start shortly. She changes her clothes and hopes that the clan won’t recognize dressed differently and perhaps with a hat on. The ceremony has just begun when she gets there and is happy to see the detective there. As the coffin starts down the conveyor belt it gets stuck. The coffin is oversized and wide as the deceased was obese. There are sparks and the drapery between the coffin and the ceremony area are lit on fire. The fire is quickly put out, but in the confusion the MC sees that one of the clan has recognized her and is trying to escape. The woman is caught and is found to have the treasure. It had been hidden in the coffin and this member of the family had been allowed to view the coffin alone and took it back.
In the end it comes to light (perhaps from a diary) that the man and his doctor had an affair, and the child was his favorite. Somehow all gets fixed, taxes are paid, and MC can buy the house.