A reasonably well-plotted but sluggish debut thriller from former attorney Hall, a British writer who manages to tell his story convincingly from a female's perspectivea genre-rarity that deserves kudos. And what a female she is. Mary Reynolds, the American editorial director of a London publishing house, is plucky, savagely witty, and friendly with her boozea limey myth of the perfect Yank. When her husband, Geoffrey, a financial journalist, talks her into buying a country house, she envisions weekends of welcome respite from the demands of fending off her odious boss's predatory advances. But, only weeks later, Mary discovers Geoffrey in a woodland near the house, dead of a suspicious heart attack. Soon after, she's also fired from her job and turns to her bestselling author and old friend Anna (a penner of roiling bodice-rippers who jaunts around like a latter-day Holly Golightly, complete with ``quels'') for aid in an investigation of Geoffrey's death. What Mary unearths shatters her staid world, revealing an elaborate intrigue that features backroom publishing deals, a scientific genius with several skeletons in his closet, vindictive rivalries, a malevolent aristocrat, and Geoffrey's illegitimate daughter. Mary's sleuthing frequently invites mortal peril: On the path to unknotting her husband's tangle of lies, his office and her flat are burgled, she evades several threatening stalkers, and she eventually beats literally to death a thug sent to recover evidence of Geoffrey's blackest secret. Loyalties turn on a dime, and Mary quickly learns that it's the women in her life she can count on. Too many digressions, diversions, and a welter of repartee stall an otherwise swift yarn, but, still: a solid read for a stormy night.
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