Dark Nantucket Noon

Dark Nantucket Noon

by Jane Langton

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Overview

Scholar and former detective Homer Kelly defends a poet accused of committing murder during an eclipse—from the “delightful and always beguiling” author (The Boston Globe).
 For all her life, poet Kitty Clark has waited to see a total eclipse of the sun. News of an impending eclipse thrills her until she learns it will be visible only from Nantucket, where one year ago her ex-lover Joe Green moved with his new wife. Unable to resist the astronomical lure, she flies in from Boston, and makes her way to an isolated lighthouse, hoping to avoid seeing Joe. The eclipse itself is overwhelming; Kitty screams when the sun vanishes behind the dark blot of the moon. When the sun returns a few minutes later, Kitty stands over the bloodied body of Mrs. Joe Green, claiming “the moon did it.” Transcendentalist scholar and former detective Homer Kelly agrees to defend the troubled young poet, but the more Kitty insists she is innocent, the crazier she appears. To clear her name he must discover who set her up, and what happened during the two minutes when the Nantucket sun disappeared.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781453252345
Publisher: MysteriousPress.com/Open Road
Publication date: 04/17/2012
Series: The Homer Kelly Mysteries , #2
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 302
Sales rank: 651,337
File size: 6 MB

About the Author

Winner of the Bouchercon Lifetime Achievement Award, Jane Langton (1922–2018) was an acclaimed author of mystery novels and children’s literature. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Langton took degrees in astronomy and art history before she began writing novels, and has set much of her fiction in the tight-knit world of New England academia.
 
She published her first novel, The Majesty of Grace, in 1961, and a year later began one of the young adult series that would make her famous: the Hall Family Chronicles. In The Diamond in the Window (1962) she introduced Edward and Eleanor, two New England children whose home holds magical secrets. Two years later, in The Transcendental Murder, Langton created Homer Kelly, a Harvard University professor who solves murders in his spare time. These two series have produced over two dozen books, most recently The Dragon Tree (2008), the eighth Hall Family novel.
Winner of the Bouchercon Lifetime Achievement Award, Jane Langton (1922–2018) was an acclaimed author of mystery novels and children’s literature. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Langton took degrees in astronomy and art history before she began writing novels, and has set much of her fiction in the tight-knit world of New England academia.
 
She published her first novel, The Majesty of Grace, in 1961, and a year later began one of the young adult series that would make her famous: the Hall Family Chronicles. In The Diamond in the Window (1962) she introduced Edward and Eleanor, two New England children whose home holds magical secrets. Two years later, in The Transcendental Murder, Langton created Homer Kelly, a Harvard University professor who solves murders in his spare time. These two series have produced over two dozen books, most recently The Dragon Tree (2008), the eighth Hall Family novel.
 

Read an Excerpt

Dark Nantucket Noon


By Jane Langton

MysteriousPress.com

Copyright © 1975 Jane Langton
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4532-5234-5


CHAPTER 1

Nantucket! Take out your map and look at it. See what a real corner of the world it occupies; how it stands there, away off shore, more lonely than the Eddystone lighthouse. Look at it—a mere hillock, and elbow of sand ...

HERMAN MELVILLE, Moby Dick


Below the little plane the water of Nantucket Sound slipped over itself, the gusty wind from the east rippling the surface in an endless rapid sparkling hastening succession of white-capped waves, while the larger waves below them seemed motionless from the air, a geologic mold of ocean water. But of course the larger waves were moving too, more slowly. And, obeying a deeper compulsion, the vast watery volume of the Atlantic Ocean was rising in response to an urgent tide that yearned across the earth, sending a bulge of water dragging after the moon from the old world to the new, carrying it heaving and pulsing along the New England coast, smashing up after last night's storm upon the granite boulders of Penobscot Bay, running up into the tidal flats of the Ipswich River and the clam beds of the town of Essex, stirring the lobster pots of Gloucester and Marblehead, agitating the scum and garbage floating around T Wharf in Boston Harbor, pounding on the fisted forearm of Cape Cod, carrying away granules of colored clay from the cliffs of Gay Head on Martha's Vineyard, washing in white breakers against the shoal that curved northeastward from the body of the island rising below the plane.

Everywhere at once the Atlantic was in motion, rocking in its bed, lifting at the summons of the massive moon, shifting the uneasy hulks of sunken vessels lying on the bottom: the Andrea Doria, many fathoms down, the City of Columbus. The tide was running in the sea; it was an ocean walking....


Kitty was coming to the island only to see the total eclipse of the sun, that was all. She had taken the plane at Boston, and when it came down at the Nantucket airport she would jump into the rented car that would be waiting for her, drive to the remotest corner of the island, look up at the eclipse, and then take the next plane home.

She was coming only to see the eclipse. There was no chance at all that she would run into Joe Green. The fact that he was living on the island with his wife had nothing whatever to do with her coming. Nothing at all. She had wanted to see a total solar eclipse all her life, and here it was, only a few miles offshore. Nantucket happened to be the only place on the North Atlantic seaboard where totality would be visible, so she had had no choice. And just because she had once made a fool of herself over Joe Green, just because he had settled down on the island and married his second or third cousin or whatever it was, that was of no consequence. She would see what she had come to see, and go home.

Therefore it was odd the way the sight of the gray sickle-shaped island in the glittering sunshaft on the Atlantic Ocean alarmed her. It was positively crawling with invisible antlike Joseph Greens. They were everywhere. Kitty imagined herself aiming a powerful telescope at the island at random—at that long neck of sand ending in a little stick that must be a lighthouse, or perhaps at that stretch of red carpet in the middle of the island. She would squint one eye through the telescope and adjust the focus until the fuzzy field of view sharpened, and there before her would be Joe's face with its amiable mouth and big kindly nose and light eyes. And those eyes would be staring up at her, seeing her, identifying her through the plane window and the wrong end of the telescope, turning cold with anger at this invasion of his privacy.

At the Nantucket airport Kitty climbed out of the plane, letting the wind blow her hair like a veil over her scowling face, avoiding the eyes of the people clustered at the gate, Joe Greens, every one of them. He had multiplied, he was just at the edge of her averted gaze, he was looking through the baggage on the pavement, he was shouting greetings into the wind, he was selling her a local paper and a map of the island, he was handing her the key to her rented car, he was crowding the waiting room, he was loaded down with sleeping bags and heavy parkas and eclipse-viewing apparatus, he was talking excitedly in a loud voice. All the Joe Greens were exchanging congratulations about the brilliant day after the storm during the night, and they were swapping information about what to watch for—the solar corona, and Baily's beads, and the shadow bands, and the flash of red at the very end. But of course when any of these multitudinous Joe Greens opened his mouth Kitty knew it wasn't really Joe, because his voice had been different. She couldn't remember it exactly, but it wasn't this one or that one.

So it was a relief to find the little green car in the parking lot just where the man had said it would be, and her key worked in the lock, and she got in and slammed the door, grateful to be out of the wind, and dumped her bag on the seat beside her, and heaved a great sigh. Joe Green couldn't see her now, unless of course he was that man off vaguely to the left climbing into a station wagon—there, now he was gone.

Kitty started the engine to warm the car, and unfolded her new map. Where was that long neck of sand she had seen from the air? There had been a lighthouse at the end, but the rest of the long sandy beach had looked roadless and deserted. There it was. Great Point. She would go to Great Point. How much time did she have? She looked at her watch. Almost two hours before the partial phase of the eclipse began, three before totality. And it was the two-and-a-half minutes of totality that she had come to see, when the light of the sun would be completely blocked out by the moon, and the sky would darken, and the solar corona would appear. It was supposed to be awe-inspiring, breath-taking, wonderful. Three hours—plenty of time. Kitty picked up the Nantucket Inquirer and Mirror and turned the pages idly.

On page one there was a picture of Nantucket's Maria Mitchell Observatory, and an article about the expeditions from Johns Hopkins and the Oceanographic Institute at Woods Hole. They were going to photograph the eclipse at the observatory and make spectrographic studies of the solar prominences. They would all be there now, thought Kitty, the scientists, milling around, checking their instruments, getting ready, jubilant because of the crystal sky after last night's storm.

There was an article with the headline WHAT TO LOOK FOR, and Kitty made a mental note to read it carefully later on. Then a name caught her eye—"Homer Kelly." Homer Kelly? It had a familiar ring somehow. She ran her eye down the paragraph. "Ex-Lieutenant-Detective Homer Kelly, noted scholar in the field of nineteenth-century American literature, is spending a few weeks on the island to complete his study of the men who sailed with Melville." Oh, yes, that was who Homer Kelly was. Kitty had read the biography of Thoreau he had written with his wife. What did this article mean by calling him an ex-Lieutenant-Detective? Had he been some kind of policeman?

Well, enough of that. Kitty folded the newspaper and stuck it into her bag, which was a roomy canvas carryall with a pair of leather handles. Then she looked at the map again. To get to Great Point she would have to go west first, then turn a sharp corner and head northeast on a road marked "Polpis." Good. Kitty put the map into her carryall next to the newspaper and shifted gears.

On the road she kept her eyes straight ahead, looking neither left nor right, while Joe Greens whizzed past her every now and then, going the other way. There were torn leaves and twigs on the pavement, and Kitty guessed they had been blown off in last night's storm.


SOFT TIRES ONLY BEYOND THIS POINT

The road had petered out into sand beyond the big gray shuttered hotel, and now it had come to an end altogether. Kitty pulled up, locked the car and set off with her bag over her arm. There was nothing in her ears but the noise she made cleaving the air, the slightest of slight sounds, diminishing as she picked up each foot in turn, increasing as she swung it forward. There were muddy puddles in the wheel ruts, and she skirted them. To her right a row of houses looked uninhabited, boarded up. To her left lay the wind-streaked water of the harbor. Where was the open ocean? Kitty stopped and opened out her fluttering map, then struggled to fold it up again. The sea should be just over there to the right. She plowed up a steep slope, clutching at beach grass, and came out on the open Atlantic. The water was a cold dark blue, foaming up at the bottom of the steep short beach. And there was something in the water, far out, sleek black heads and finny tails. Seals! sporting and playing, diving for fish.

Exhilarated, Kitty ran down to the sand at the water's edge and whirled around, her bag a driving force at the end of one arm, her hair swatting her neck, slapping her face. Then she walked straight ahead in big strides, the sunshine striking down upon her shoulders.

The simple facts of the seashore made her happy. Air, water, earth and fire, everything reduced to its ancient elements. She had been wanting for a long time to do something with those four things, a long funny exercise in rhymed couplets. Why didn't she just stay, abandon her students, her apartment in Cambridge, her old life, and just stay? With only these four gigantic things to think about—the salt air, the blue water, the clean sand and the fiery sun. Only three in a little while, because the sun was about to have its eye put out by the murdering moon.

The northwest wind knocked and shouldered against her. Kitty leaned into it, adapted herself to it, let it whip at her hair and at the, two ends of her wrapped skirt. Suddenly she felt hungry, terribly hungry. She sank down on the sand and reached for her sandwiches. Then she had to get up and plump herself down higher up the beach, because she hadn't counted on the reach of the waves. The tide must be rising. She unwrapped a sandwich and took a lusty bite. It tasted marvelous. Then she unscrewed the top of her Thermos and poured out a little coffee. That tasted marvelous too. She felt around in her bag for the photographic plate she had wrapped up carefully in a cotton kerchief, and held it to the sun. There! A tiny nibble had been taken from the lower right-hand side. Kitty glanced around at the bluff and the sand and the sea, wondering if there would be any diminishing yet of the daylight. Not yet. Everything seemed just as before.

She stood up, let the wind carry away the crumbs from her skirt, gathered up the debris from her lunch, chased a flying sandwich wrapper, pounced on it, stuffed it into her bag and walked on. The going was hard, because the sand was mushy even at the wet edge of the water. Every now and then she rested by stopping to look up at the sun through her photographic plate. The bite that was being taken by the hungry moon was growing bigger, but still the light shining on the sea seemed as bright as ever. The shore continued to curve out of sight ahead of her as if she were walking always in the same place. Once Kitty climbed the bluff to examine a pile of shells and fragments of sponge and bits of beach glass that had been dumped there by some child. They had not come from this place, because here the shore was bare except for flotsam tossed up by the storm, pieces of broken lumber, a plastic jug. There was no other debris on the coarse golden sand, only the overlapping lines traced by the farthest-flung waves, delicate scalloped edgings the thickness of a single grain of sand, beaded with miniature pebbles and fragile tassels of seaweed and pearly fragments of sponge like crumbs of bread. Kitty scooped up some of the shells and dropped them into her bag.

The lighthouse was in sight at last, a white object far away. She looked at her watch. Only an hour before totality. Impulsively Kitty made up her mind to watch the eclipse from the lighthouse. There was no time to waste. She ran back down again to the edge of the water and began striding along, dragging her heels out of the clinging sand, feeling the pull in the small of her back. By the time the moon had effaced half of the sun's disk she was tired, but she kept her eyes fixed on the curving shore ahead of her, willing the lighthouse to come in sight. The sky was noticeably darker now, the blue deeper and more intense, the sea more forbidding, the air chillier and sharp. The crescent sun was slanting down through the beach grass on the bluff, making miraculous images of itself between the interfering blades, and the dancing sparkles on the rushing waves were crescents too. The light filtering through Kitty's hair made small crescents amid the shadow that floated beside her. But Kitty had eyes now only for the lighthouse, a faraway gleaming tower above the bluff. She hurried her heavy feet, feeling giddy, high-spirited. I am running a race with the moon. So is the sun, which comes forth like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and like a strong man runs its course with joy.

Where were the birds? There had been small ones skittering along the edge of the waves, and herring gulls dipping and soaring. They were gone. I must be moonstruck, thought Kitty, giggling. I'm suffering from moon madness. She pounded on, her feet doggedly taking turns, her chest rising and falling in gasping breaths. The land had narrowed. She could see the ocean on either side. The sandy neck was all one beach. Suddenly her shoes were in water. A shock of cold went through her, and she looked down. A wave had run up the shore and spilled over on the other side. Kitty tried to dodge the next, but it caught her and dashed against her legs, soaking her shoes and woolly stockings and drenching the hem of her skirt with the freezing water of the North Atlantic. Ankle-deep, Kitty stood still and cried out with the bitterness of the cold. The wave slipped sideways back, and the next impulse was not as high. Swiftly she pulled off her sopping shoes and stockings and stuffed them in her carryall. The sand seemed almost warm to her bare feet. The sky was darker now, the wind freshening, lifting her hair, blowing up the loose heavy edge of her skirt. Lightfooted, Kitty began to run again, glancing up at the streaking rays glaring over the rim of the moon. Not yet, moon, don't put the sun out yet. I want to touch base first. Gasping, she ran, shivering with cold, the wind tossing her hair in a long streamer, blowing the flap of her skirt up about her waist, exposing one pale cold leg. At first Kitty tried to push her skirt down, but it was too much trouble. And why bother? There was no one to see. Even the all-seeing eye of the sun was about to be put out. It was really dark now, quite dark. She stopped running and plodded along for another half mile. Then with a breathless laugh Kitty suddenly reached up and wrenched off her sunglasses. Sunglasses! At a time like this.

Touch base! She was nearly there. She ran across the wet sand, her hands stretched out, the stone side of the lighthouse looming up before her, and at last her fingers touched the peeling white paint of the wall. Then she turned and tottered a few steps, her heart in her mouth as a pall of darkness suddenly dropped upon her shoulders. The sand was fluttering with strange shadows. She threw her head back and looked up. The sun was going. A single piercing ray glistened at one side, and then—

Kitty screamed. The sea screamed, the sand, the sky. The sun was gone. There was a black stone in its place. A small black stone. Pearly brightness flared up around it. Two planets welled up in the midnight sky near it.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Dark Nantucket Noon by Jane Langton. Copyright © 1975 Jane Langton. Excerpted by permission of MysteriousPress.com.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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