Consider the town of Estella. "Known for its beautiful surroundings and pleasant people, the Northern California town of Estella is a small but growing community on the banks of a tidal river north of San Francisco Bay." But the brochure, promoting the first "Jennifer Carpenter Days," doesn't end there. The town, and the river, are named after a young women who was raped 150 years ago and who drowned herself.
"Twenty-five years ago," it continues, "another young girl met a sinister end. On the cusp of 18, beautiful and naive in equal measure, Jennifer Carpenter vanished into a moonlit night in the hills northwest of town, leaving behind nothing but the uniform worn at St. Stephanie's Boarding School for Orphaned Girls: white blouse, blue-and-white checked skirt, serviceable socks, and clogs."
The disappearance provoked a media frenzy, and now the town is capitalizing on the mystery--and filling local coffers--with a parade and other festivities. A beautiful lawyer, Lisa Conda, is chosen to play Jennifer, complete with dark wig. A one-time lover of Roy S. Moby, a soft-porn svengali new to Estella who has opened a chain of family restaurants, Conda meets a horrible end in the same woods, in the same place, as Carpenter herself.
That's when 28-year-old Rapunzel Isabel O'Hara enters the picture. A freelance writer, she and Conda had become friends of sorts, though both had sought Moby's sexual favor. Rapunzel, intelligent, intuitive, a featured nude in Moby's magazine, comes to Estella to investigate. She discovers a hornet's nest of intrigue among the townspeople and in search of Lisa's killer uncovers truths long buried.
The red-headed O'Hara herself, says Moby, is a dichotomy. "From the chin up she looks like an old maid. The first time I made her take off her clothes she turned beet red" but she was aroused. Rapunzel "can leave you slashed, raw and bleeding. She is that most dangerous of females: the erotic prude."
"Whose Woods These Are" ($23.99 in paperback from Xlibris; also available in Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook e-book formats) by Dave Veith weaves a complex spell. He is scheduled to be interviewed by Nancy Wiegman on Nancy's Bookshelf at 10:00 a.m. this Friday, May 18 on KCHO (Northstate Public Radio, 91.7 FM).