Hardly have retired Tipton College Professor Ondine Jellicoe and her boarder/lover, framemaker Pavel Havel, gotten used to the idea that celebrated artist Granville Foote will be returning to their quiet Paris neighborhood—to be joined by his sister, fellow Tipton retiree Carlotta Foote Chalmers, and his two nieces and grandniece—than the Foote family seems to self-destruct in a shower of stylish sparks. Gallery owner Hugo Kramer, who displays duly authenticated fakes and forgeries, turns out to have an uncomfortably intimate connection to Granville's despised brother Carlos, Carlotta's twin and Granville's unsuccessful opposite number. Nor is all well between Granville's nieces, Susan and Maggie Chalmers, even though Susan is playing a most devoted nanny to Maggie's infant daughter DÇdÇe, as model Maggie's plan to reap a cash bonus by signing her dearest over as Granville's ward meets an unexpected obstacle. When the smoke has cleared, both Carlos and Granville will be dead, suspicion cast on the most massively diverse characters, Ondine and Pavel (who seem destined for a series) covered with the sort of glory you'd expect from the heroes who defuse ticking bombs, and the gentle reader dozing under the merciless weight of every detail of the artsy principals' domestic arrangements. Crosby's intricate, ultracivilized second mystery (The Fast- Death Factor, 1990) reads like Peyton Place with Professor Lana Turner playing detective in the rue Servandoni. The mind reels, but not in pleasure.
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