Sturrenden's Inspector Luke Thanet and his ever supportive Sergeant Mike Lineham are again investigating a murder in the upper-middle-class environs of town (No Laughing Matter, 1993, etc.). The victim is travel-writer-playboy Max Jeopard, who's found dead, fully clothed, in the swimming pool of hosts Ralph and Marion Sylvester, during a party celebrating Max's engagement to their daughter Tess. Max and Tess have had a stormy, off-on relationship, and the party itself seems to have been less than celebratory—with Max having been slapped by ex-girlfriend Anthea and snubbed by Tess's ex-fiancÇ Gerald Argent, and with the Sylvesters' schizophrenic son Carey having escaped briefly from the care of his nurse Michael Roper. Thanet spots something strange, too, in the relationship of the Sylvesters to their bejewelled, BMW-owning housekeeper Barbara Mallis. The key to it all lies in Max's monumentally selfish, charismatic persona, and Thanet, in one of his intuitive flashes, dredges up a bit of overlooked (but not by the alert reader) evidence and almost reluctantly nails down the culprit. This time out, a rather subdued Thanet goes through his civilized paces, here dealing compassionately with a very contemporary dilemma and adding a thoughtful, readable, slightly tepid case history to the author's respected body of work.
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