Would an experienced roué really kill himself?
Every evening, Inspector Alvarez, of the Cuerpo General de Policia, enjoys a ration of cognac with just a little ice. Tonight, however, this pleasure is delayed by a call alerting him to the demise of Senor Sterne, a wealthy Englishman who apparently died of monoxide poisoning in his car in his garage. But the coroner, disagreeing, says it’s not suicide but murder, brought on by extreme fear. Who wanted the philanderer dead? The suspects include his ex-wife, now seriously ill; their adult children, Alec and Caroline, named as his insurance beneficiaries; Cecilia, a former paramour who said she was promised a painting worth 35,000 euros; and several cuckolded husbands smarting for revenge. Alvarez’s questioning proceeds slowly. After all, his boss requires frequent updates, and his cousin Dolores demands that he start courting a divorcée, Ana, with dinners, phone calls and roses. The Sterne house staff—a general factotum and his wife the cook, their melancholy daughter Susanna and the gardener—provide clues: Senor Sterne had an argument with someone on the day of his death, and a black hatchback Citroen sped away from the premises with a skeleton dangling from its window. Alvarez cuts short a few siestas (but not lunches) and ultimately sidesteps marriage and his superior’s hectoring to pour himself a glass of Soberano in commemoration of his own notion of justice.
Slight to the point of transparency. But Jeffries (Sun, Sea and Murder, 2009, etc.) will have you salivating over Dolores’s recipes and longing for a Majorcan cookbook.