As the The Library of Crime Classics edition published by IPL says on the back cover, this book is "a walk on the Wilders side." In the tiny New England village of Wilders Lane, all the school children grow up chanting
Other people die of mumps
Or general decay,
Of fevers, chills or other ills
But Wilders walk away.
And that would seem to be true. Ever since Revolutionary War times on, members of the Wilder family have just walked away--apparently disappearing into thin air. It begins with Jonathan's disappearance in 1775 and extends forward to the novel's 1940s present. There have been footprints on a beach that simply stop. And the father of the current Wilders walks into his office's storage room and is never seen again.
Into this legend of vanishing Wilders walks Reynold Frame, a photojournalist on assignment from Life. When he comes to the village in search of a place to stay, he arrives at the home of Constance Wilder, her sister Ellen, and their Aunt Mary. Ellen is on her way to visit another aunt and Frame helps her carry her heavy suitcase to the bus stop. It isn't long before there are rumors that Ellen has "walked away" for good. But, this time there is proof that the missing Wilder didn't just vanish--Frame finds her murdered and buried in a freshly dug grave. This leads to the discovery of Constance and Ellen's father's body as well. A day or two later, Aunt Mary gets up from the dining table, goes into the kitchen to fetch dessert, and vanishes. As a journalist and a man smitten with the beautiful Constance, Frame is impelled to investigate and he eventually gets to the bottom of the mysteries--both past and present.
I remember Wilders as an engrossing twist on the "impossible" crime. Not quite as good as John Dickson Carr, but still a highly enjoyable mystery and one that I recommend. And....for all of you who are still working on your challenge levels for the Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge, there just happens to be a copy of this little gem on the prize list.