Wilson Roberts

Double Woods

In the early spring of 1944, three nine year old boys bicycle to Double Woods, a patch of second and third growth woodland just beyond the borough limits of Newtown, Pennsylvania. While playing there, they find the body of a young woman, Penny Ringle, buried under a mattress in a make shift dump. The town’s new police chief, Stan Burns, back from the war after being wounded in Italy, investigates the murder. He is faced with a small list of suspects and the fact that Penny, a war time worker in the Philadelphia Naval Yard, was also involved in the management of a prostitution ring in the city. Tom Watson, the head of the Newtown’s Borough Council, and acounty commissioner, who pushed Stan’s appointment as chief through the Council, pressures him and the Bucks County District Attorney to make a quick arrest, based on disturbing circumstantial evidence. At the subsequent trial the suspect is convicted and sentenced to be executed by electrocution.

In 1987, forty three years after the trial and execution, Stan Burns is ill and living in a nursing home. He tells Will Davis, the police chief he mentored, and who succeeded him, that he was never comfortable with the conviction and has come to believe the individual executed to be innocent. Will, who was one three boys who found Penny’s body, starts a second investigation into her murder. With no more evidence to go on than Stan Burns had during the first investigation, Will is faced with uncertainty. Was Stan right? Did the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania execute an innocent person? Is there any way to discover the two truths he is charged with seeking: the possible innocence of the person convicted and executed for Penny’s murder and, if so, the identity and motive of the true killer?

In the course of his investigation, Will Razor has to follow Stan Burns’ already trod path. The suspects of forty three years before are again investigated. Will is faced with acknowledging the difficulty of truly knowing anything, including whether or not his former wife murdered their unwanted and sickly child.

A mystery in the true sense, 'Double Woods' is an exciting story of a murder and its investigations as well as a vivid recreation of times past in Newtown, a small Bucks County farming community near Philadelphia, just as the town and county’s semi rural past is disappearing, replaced by the cities and suburbs that now dominate the coasts of the central and northeast United States.
347 printed pages
Original publication

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