First Friday authors at Otto’s

It’s a mystery, but so much more than a mystery – it’s an insider’s look at the buying and selling of antiques.

It’s infused with a love for the collectors, the people who rescue treasures and the people who have to part with them.

But first, the mystery: A body is found in a blanket chest in the business called Cider Run Antiques Inc.

Police estimate the murder occurred about midnight before the day it was discovered.

They learn there were only 17 keys to the building – one for each of the dealers.

The door was locked when the first dealer came in that morning, so the murderer had to be one of them.

But which one?

And here is where the 27 chapters between the finding of the body and the police interrogation give the reader clues to the character and possible motives of all 16 dealers.

I could see where at least half of them had reason to kill – and they were such nice people.

So how could I stand to read those 27 chapters while the mystery stayed a mystery?

Because the author, Peggy Hartman, writes beautifully, tying each person to their involvement in the antiques business; to the Pennsylvania setting with its history of frontier settlers, iron workers, lumbermen, railroad men and moonshiners.

Each dealer became a fully realized character in the drama of building the business. And I couldn’t skip ahead because I might miss a crucial clue to solving the murder.

Hartman has been an antiques dealer for 20 years. She has specialized in antiques for dining and decor.

Hartman’s shop, The Antique Sideboard, is located in the co-operative in State College called Apple Hill Antiques.

Her background includes technical writing as a social worker and editing special education projects.

Her childhood was spent in a village in the Hudson River Valley, not far from Sleepy Hollow, New York, an area steeped in history.

Hartman says her love of antiques is one way to hold on to her past.

She became a dealer to be around others who understood the lure and intrigue of antiques.

Surrounded by “old stuff” and endless conversations about “old stuff,” she felt compelled to write it down so she wrote “Antiques to Die For,” a book to die for.

Hartman will be Otto’s guest author from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday at Otto’s, 107 W. Fourth St. Light refreshments will be served.