Pickax really needed a new hotel. The “New Pickax Hotel,” built in 1935, was described as gloomy but clean, and had a terrible restaurant, but a bomb exploding in one of the room really made the new hotel necessary.
James Mackintosh Qwilleran, ailurophile, popular newspaper columnist, and richest man in Moose County, is impressed with the new Mackintosh Inn, inside and out when he is given a private tour before the official opening. But he is amazed at the portrait of his late mother, Anne Mackintosh Qwilleran that was commissioned for the new inn.
The most influential citizens of Moose County attend the reception at the new inn, and everyone is impressed with the new facility, and also with the food prepared by the new chef.
The first guest to stay at the new inn buys good pieces of jewelry from people who need the money more than their baubles. After buying the jewelry he either passes the pieces on to his associates so they can fashion the gems and precious metals into new jewelry, or sells them to other customers. All transactions are cash only. Everything is going quite well until the jeweler is found suffocated by a pillow in the bed of the presidential suite.
And the desk clerk who had the night shift suddenly disappears. The timing seemed strange because the young man had been abandoned as a baby and found by Police Chief Andrew Brodie while he was working for the sheriff’s department years earlier.
Boze Campbell had just won first place in tossing the caber at a tri-county Scottish fair, and was now a local hero.
Back at the barn, Qwill’s Siamese cats, Koko and Yum Yum cover the remodeled apple barn where they live with Qwill with paper towels. Koko knocks a copy of Oedipus Rex off the bookshelf, breaks into the new penny bowl, and does a few other things to help Qwill see things from a slightly different perspective, and figure out who the killer is.
Qwill also learns more about his own background. Osmond Hasselrich, an outstanding country lawyer, dies. On his deathbed he asks his junior partner to give Qwill a folder containing letters from Qwill’s late mother to her dear friend Fanny Klingenschoen. Qwill gets a glimpse of his mother as a young woman, and comes to understand why the woman he grew up calling “Aunt Fanny” would leave him the fortune that made him the richest man in the Northeastern Central United States. Qwill also learns from the letters how his parents met, fell in love, eloped, and why he never met his grandparents. He also learns some details about the father who died before he was born that are terribly disturbing.