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Murder on Old Mission

Murder on Old Mission

            Sam Logan, a twice divorced man becomes involved with Margaret Cutter, a young woman on a neighboring farm in late nineteenth century northern Michigan.  She carries the guilt of being blamed by her mother for her baby brother’s drowning.  He is burdened by his previous marital failures and his inability to live up to his wealthy father’s expectations.   Sam’s son Isaiah, from his first marriage, is desperately in love with Margaret, but she sees him only as a boy.

            She becomes pregnant with Sam’s child and dreams of a life together.  Her baby will, in her mind, compensate for the loss of her brother.  But Sam’s father will disinherit him if he marries her, and threatens to leave his considerable holdings to Isaiah.

            She leaves a note for him with Isaiah, setting up a last meeting to try to work out their dilemma.  Isaiah delivers the message, but keeps the note.  She is distraught and suicidal. She has with her a bottle of laudanum, given to her by a traveling salesman.  He is desperate.  They quarrel.  She drinks some of the laudanum.  He finishes the bottle.  While they are both under the influence of the drug, she dies.

            He had told Isaiah  that he would be clearing brush for a new road that day.  This will become his alibi.  After the murder, Sam returns to clearing brush, and Isaiah  joins him, and sees that not much work has been accomplished since last they worked together on the road.

            When Margaret does not return from what her parents had thought was a flower gathering expedition, a search party, joined by Sam and Isaiah, sets out to look for her.  Her body is found, and suspicion begins to fall on Sam, whose relationship with her was well known.

            He is arrested and tried.  The tension builds.  What will Isaiah do?  He can provide his father with a solid alibi.  All he has to do is stretch the truth a little.  He does not want to lie, nor does he desire to see his father convicted.  The townspeople are solidly against Sam because of his previous marital failures.  Isaiah testifies that his father worked on the road that day, but he does so in such a way as not to firmly establish the alibi.  Sam is convicted and Isaiah leaves the area to become a sailor on the Great Lakes.  The novel closes with Sam and Isaiah living uncomfortably together, years later in a house Isaiah inherits from his mother.

            The supporting cast of characters include a hired hand on the Cutter farm who tries to sell his testimony to the highest bidder so he can leave for California, a young, tubercular reporter who encounters the distraught Margaret the day before she died and later befriends Isaiah, the salesman who gave Margaret the laudanum, and of course the ambitious prosecutor and high priced defense attorney, paid for by Sam’s father in an effort not so much to save his son as to protect the family name.           


            The historical setting has been carefully researched and provides a rich environment for this compelling story, which plumbs the hearts of its characters.

More information from the publisher, Arbutus Press

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