Not a Chance in Helen: A River Road Mystery - Susan McBride

Wealthy widow, eighty-one year old Eleanora Duncan, lived alone in her Victorian mansions after her husband Marvin died and she lost her only son in a car accident, caused by her daughter-in-law. 

She was a member of every imaginable club and associatioin in River Bend, Illinois, not because she was wanted or popular. On the contrary, if she wasn't so wealthy and a benefactor to all of them, nobody would have cared to even speak one word to her. She never had a good thought about anyone; she blamed Jean, her daughter-in-law, for her son's death and refused to talk to her. Her cat, Lady Godiva and Zelma, her house assistant, were the only two souls sharing her life. 

Zelma dedicated her whole life to Eleanora. She worked for her since she was sixteen years old. Mrs. Duncan told Zelma she did not need anyone else in her life. Zelma did not have family, never got married, and therefore had no children. Eleonora was her whole life.

Seventy-five-year-old Helen Evans saved Eleanora's life one sunny day when a car almost ran her over. The surprised Mrs. Duncan told Helen that someone was trying to kill her. And then she did die. 

The town had to answer to the death and had a lot to say in return. Three people visited Eleonora that day. There was Stan, her down-and-out brother-in-law who couldn't keep his inheritance intact. She constantly had to send him cheques for survival. He stood to inherit if she died. Then there was Floyd Baskin, the eco-terrorist who relied heavily on her husband's contributions to his cause. She was trying to get him cut off from her husband's beneficiary list in his will and Baskin was aware of it. Jemima Winthrop accused Eleonora all these years that her family stole the Winthrop inheritance and tried to wiggle a piece of land out of Eleonora to build a library. Eleonora ignored her. Jean, her daughter-in-law heard of the incident that morning and brought her some gourmet snacks, trying to mend relationships with her. It did not work.