When a car pulls along a small dog named Sancho Panza in the shadows of the night, it is rescued just in time by Dr. Conti. But was the intervention a little too convenient? As events grow increasingly grim, Doug Swanson wonders if he really knows the state of his roommate's mind. Shortly thereafter, Jo Baines, father of Mark and Polly, requests a secret meeting with Swanson at the Mill Pool; our narrator finds the drowned Baines the next morning, each of his arms caught in a spring trap. Next, the participants of a coon-hunt (another ironic game of animal torture) discover the missing Polly Baines, who had been tied alive to the uppermost branches of a tree and left to die. As suspicions mount and vultures ceaselessly circle the valley, it becomes clear that at least one of the villagers – and perhaps more – has crossed over into madness.
Along with Martin Edwards, I am indebted to Curtis Evans over at The Passing Tramp blog, who has an excellent entry about the history of the writing consortium responsible for the titles published under the names Patrick Quentin and Q. Patrick. Four writers have contributed to the franchise over the decades, including award-winning playwright Hugh Wheeler, a collaborator with Stephen Sondheim on Sweeney Todd, Demon Barber of Fleet Street and A Little Night Music. Curt identifies the authors of The Grindle Nightmare as the franchise's anchor Richard Wilson Webb, writing with Martha Kelley. Check out his great website for more information!