cover image Too Soon for Flowers

Too Soon for Flowers

Margaret Miles. Bantam, $5.99 (320pp) ISBN 978-0-553-57863-8

A raging smallpox epidemic in spring 1764 prompts a mass exodus from Boston to more pastoral New England settings in Miles's (A Wicked Way to Burn) latest mystery. Retreating to the deceptive tranquillity of Bracebridge, Mass., three patients--Diana Longfellow, Phoebe Morris and Lem Sloan--willingly take the controversial smallpox inoculation (administered by alcoholic Dr. Tucker), expecting only mild symptoms and a short recuperation. But the abrupt death of Morris--who, along with the others, has been hosted by widow Charlotte Willett and Diana's brother Richard Longfellow--leads to conjecture about the true cause of her death. Before long, another death, ruled suicide, adds to the abundant speculation, prompting Charlotte and Richard to investigate the disturbing and tarnished pasts of the Bostonian refugees. Miles's clever dialogue satisfyingly contrasts superstition and religious fanaticism with a steadfast Enlightenment belief in reason and science. (July)