Just as newly promoted Inspector Gemma James’s pregnancy is starting to show—and to remind her how little room her flat has for a new baby—her lover, Supt. Duncan Kincaid (A Finer End, 2001, etc.) happens onto a piece of incredible luck: a most reasonable five-year lease on a house in fashionable Notting Hill, with room enough for both of them, together with Kincaid’s son Kit, Gemma’s son Toby, and the imminent arrival. Their advent, however, is marked by tragedy when antiques dealer Karl Arrowood’s much younger wife, Dawn, is found stabbed to death in her driveway. Dawn had also been in the early stages of pregnancy, a revelation that shocks both her lover, porcelain dealer Alex Dunn, and her husband, who insists that the child must have been his despite the vasectomy he got after his two grown sons, Richard and Sean, soured him on family life. Both those sons, resentful of the trophy wife who stands to inherit their father’s considerable estate, have a powerful motive for killing Dawn, as do Karl himself and, it eventually seems, half the merchants on Portobello Road. But Gemma’s arduous rounds of questioning provoke only anger or amusement among the suspects, and a second murder produces only more confusion. It’ll take endless interrogations of several families’ dim past histories, supplemented by repeated flashbacks, to disclose the truth.
Anglophiles will cheer the sociological evocation of the changing London neighborhood, and there’s plenty of justice, despite the title, though the detection is more dogged than inspired.