The preface notes a manuscript of the author's was plucked from a slush pile. Alex's housekeeper, Elise, for his Hatteras Inn, a replica of the Hatteras Light, situated in the foothills of North Carolina, argued with him that the inn needed to attract a wealthier clientele. She said that friendship should not get in the way of the goals for the inn. The conversation arose because a fair was scheduled to take place on the property.
Someone killed one of the blacksmiths. Alex persuaded the sheriff to let the fair continue. Alex called his former girlfriend, a lawyer, to the scene in case any of the fair participants needed to be defended as they were being questioned by the sheriff.
The fair attracted a huge crowd, more to see the crime scene than to see the artisans at work. The victim was trying to drive another blacksmith out of business. Everyone in town knew that the sheriff depended upon Alex to help him solve mysteries.
Gossip spread like kudzu in the town. Elise the housekeeper had to leave because her father was to have a heart operation. Everyone thought that she was gone for good.
Many people had hated the victim. Next a Marilyn Baxter is believed to have been kidnapped and is then found-- her absence caused by an overdose. I don't want to give away any more of the plot of this well-written story.