"Two pencils, an india-rubber, a penknife, camp stool, easel, paint-box, a tube of Chinese white, a piece of sponge, paint rag, and water tin," said Aldred Laurence, checking each item off on her fingers. "Let me see! Can I possibly want anything else? It's so extremely aggravating to get to a place and find you've left at home what you most particularly need. My block, of course! How could I be so stupid as to forget it? It's no good taking pencils and paints if I've nothing to draw upon!" "Hello, Aldred! What a spread!" exclaimed Keith, rousing himself from the luxuries of a comfortable chair and an absorbing book to notice that his sister had put on her hat, that her gloves lay on a chair, and that she was already beginning to pack some of the articles in question inside a home-made portfolio of dark-green American cloth. "The table looks like an art repository!" he continued. "Have you suddenly turned into a Rubens, or a Raphael? Where are you going with all those traps?" Aldred paused to count her paint brushes, fitted the spare tube of Chinese white into a vacant corner of her paint-box, and slipped the penknife into her pocket. "I want to make a sketch of old Mrs. Barker's cottage," she replied.
Shortly after the publication of her bestseller, "The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, "Stein found herself stymied by writer's block. A series of local crimes inspired this attempt to revive her artistry, a droll detective novel in which the central mystery involves rediscovering the path to creativity.