BRATTLEBORO — Most people would love to jump in a time machine, allowing them to explore other eras. What if a maple tree were the magic ticket?
That’s how it works in Lynne Kennedy’s latest novel, “The Tree of Lost Secrets,” which tells four mysteries across three centuries in Brattleboro, with the help of — in true Vermont fashion — a magical maple tree. (The tree is, in fact, inspired by one in her front yard.)
“Brattleboro’s a really interesting place, and although it may not have been personally involved with certain time periods, it lived through many,” the town resident said. “ ... I tried to blend what was really going on at the time with what could’ve been happening in Brattleboro and how residents could’ve been connected.”
Kennedy’s seventh book follows Helen Ainsley, a best-selling mystery writer who’s battling cancer and has lost her confidence, according to a news release from Kennedy. To help inspire her writing, she returns to her childhood home in Brattleboro — an inn dating back to the American Revolution.
An old sugar maple on the property has initials carved on the trunk that suddenly appear and disappear, and Ainsley realizes the tree is a “portal into past injustices and it is up to her to bring closure to the lost memories of the dead,” the release says.
In addition to the Revolution, Ainsley travels to the time of World Wars I and II and the Civil War, uncovering the inn’s “heartbreaking past.”
Kennedy, a Brooklyn, N.Y., native, lived for a time in Brattleboro and moved back five years ago, after living in San Diego for nearly 40 years. She said she pulled from her extensive background in science and history to create the novel.
Before writing books, Kennedy, 74, served for 28 years as a science museum director in California. She also developed educational programs for teachers and students working with the San Diego Sheriff’s Department Crime Lab and the city’s police department, and created “mystery” nights for families, she says on her website.
She began to put pen to paper in 1995, using her expertise to solve the crimes she creates with forensic science.
“I love mysteries and I absolutely love history. I’ve always read a lot of historical fiction and non-fiction, so I’ve always wanted to write,” she said. “I thought I could combine all those three loves ... write a historical event, turn it into a mystery, and solve it with modern technology.”
Her other books are also historical mysteries, with plots like finding a missing Vincent van Gogh painting and following the journey of Salem Witch Trial victims.
The latest novel — published by BookBaby on Oct. 12 — is available locally at The Toadstool Bookshop in Keene and Everyone’s Books in Brattleboro, as well as at Barnes & Noble, Amazon and other national retailers.
This story has been updated to correct the title of Kennedy's new book.