Ralph McGuire has Alzheimer’s. He is an author of biographies and is married to Isabel. He is a curmudgeonly elderly man. Since the onset of Alzheimer’s, he has become more unpredictable and irascible. He is now more difficult to work with than he ever was before. He lives in the house with his wife Isabel, his niece Johanna and Elspeth. One day a stranger comes to visit outfitted in an overcoat with a hat pulled low over his (her?), face; ten minutes later Ralph is dead of an apparent overdose of his medication.
Inspector Kershaw and his partner DS Tom Small are on the case. They begin their investigation by interviewing the visitors and inhabitants of the house. Then they talk to the neighbors, friends and associates of Ralph’s. But, of those who actually saw the stranger, none can give a description because of the coat, hat and scarf.
The book flashes back to an earlier time. Duncan Sinclair has been hired by Ralph to assist Isabel in the research for Ralph’s latest book; a biography of actor Leo Adare. Duncan and Isabel work closely together.
Much interesting information is given about the key players’ backgrounds during these flashbacks.
Following Ralph’s funeral, Duncan and Isabel receive invitations to a dinner party given by Kiernan O’Brien, Leo’s nephew. Unbeknownst to Kiernan, Marina Bushell (Kiernan’s partner), poisoned the food. Isabel gets violently ill by the time she and Duncan reach home. She is rushed to the hospital. Marina’s father is listed as Ralph on her birth certificate and she is extremely jealous of Isabel and the big house she lives in.
The doctor discovers that she was poisoned and calls Inspector Kershaw. He goes to interview Kiernan and Marina. She was poisoned with the seeds from a laburnum tree. There is one in the neighbor’s yard next to Marina and Kiernan’s. Inspector Kershaw and Tom suspect Marina, but she denies any involvement. The police officers then learn a shocking fact about Marina.
The identity of the murderer is now revealed, and who made the attempts on Isabel and Duncan’s lives. How they did it is also shown. It isn’t long before Kershaw and Tom figure it out, too.
This is a very timely novel regarding the painful subject of mercy killing. But bigger than that is who is the murderer and why? Short, concise chapters made this novel move along at a quick pace.
The characters are well-drawn. I liked most of them. I appreciated the relationship between Isabel and Duncan. (I wonder if they ever got together.) They all seemed competent and well-adjusted, except for a few of them. This novel was well written and plotted. It read pretty much in a straight line, with no wasted words. The background information given was very interesting, and rather than detracting from the plot, it only enhanced it. I truly enjoyed this book and hope to see more from Sheila Parker.
I want to thank NetGalley and Troubador Publishing Limited/Matador for forwarding to me a copy of this wonderful book to read, enjoy and review.
by Joyce Fox
When I saw the description of this book I thought I’d give it ago as this subject interests me.lots of twists and turns and guessing right till the end. Very enjoyable, couldn’t put it down. Five star read.
by Debra Marlowe