After their fathers suicide brought on by his enormous stock losses, once wealthy siblings Lilly and Robert Brewster now barely manage to support themselves in their cramped New York City apartment. Salvation appears in the form of an inherited Hudson River mansion gifted by an uncle whom they barely knew. The Brewsters leave the city, hopeful they can adjust to life in a quaint small community. When the uncles death turns out to be not an accident but a murder, and a body is later found in the mansions kitchen, the suspicious town folk wonder if the two newcomers might be involved in both incidents.
The historical note here is the Depression and its effects on both well to do and working class Americans. Closely described is the often invisible poverty of the country towns - families living off the city dump, crop prices falling below a living wage, small business closing. F.D.R. has not yet thrown his cap into the presidential race, and half way through the book better off neighbors fearful about the possibility of the country turning toward Communism discuss the difference between Hoovers Jeffersonian views and those which promote a more assertive role for the federal government.
The book is mainly light fare, one quickly read and enjoyed for its portrayal of Lily, who is a sharper problem solver than her brother, and of life in Depression era New York state. It is the first of at least four more Grace and Favor mysteries.