Almost 40 years ago, Maureene Pinter painted a portrait of her twin sister, Doreene, that made them both famous – Maureene as a painter, and Doreene as the beauty who doesn’t age, although her portrait does. Since then, Doreene married Hank Gray, only to become widowed when Hank fell off a mountain in Argentina. When Doreene returns from her latest trip with Reynaldo, a handsome young Brazilian, she announces her plan to sell the portrait through famed auction house Rothwell’s.
News of the sale catches the attention of Angus MacGregor, co-founder of Tripping, a travel magazine that covers destinations of uncanny interest. Angus and his two-person staff travel to Doreene’s mansion in Port Townsend, Washington, a Victorian town wreathed in the mists and rain of Puget Sound.
Doreene swans around with Gigi, her Chihuahua, and seems perfectly happy, if somewhat bitchy. But Reynaldo and Maureene confide to Tripping that they’re worried. Doreene can be heard talking to the portrait in its locked room, and if the painting is bumped or dropped, Doreene feels pain. When strips of paper with morbid words appear in the luncheon soup, Doreene invites Tripping to stay and be nosy. Tripping isn’t in the debunking business – far from it, but Angus can’t resist an exclusive story, so they move into the fraught household.
Questions abound: Why won’t Doreene let Max Thorne, the art dealer from Rothwell’s, get close to the painting? What does Lupita, the housekeeper, fear? And why does a man named Enrico Russo sit in a white Impala outside the mansion? As bizarre occurrences multiply, it becomes clear that while Doreene may have kept her youthful looks, the past is catching up with her.