Books by Vivien Armstrong

ROLL OVER, PLAY DEAD by Vivien Armstrong
Released: May 1, 2007

"A step-by-step procedural likely to please fans of the traditional whodunit."
A metropolitan detective finds exurban murder a challenge when he's sent to Horsham to investigate the death of an industrialist's trophy wife. Read full book review >
BLUE MURDER by Vivien Armstrong
Released: June 1, 2006

"Armstrong (Smile Now, Die Later, 2003, etc.) presents an interesting cast, but the ending is a bit of a letdown."
An all-expense-paid holiday on the Isle of Man seems just the ticket to get a detective chief inspector back in shape after he's stabbed while trying to prevent a mugging. Read full book review >
SMILE NOW, DIE LATER by Vivien Armstrong
Released: April 1, 2003

"The neat windup requires a suspension of disbelief that's not only willing but downright passionate, and never explains the long coincidences that have made Zoe an unlucky lady indeed. A notch below Armstrong's best (Beyond the Pale, 2001, etc.)."
No matter where she goes, freelance fabric restorer Zoe Templeman can't escape the specter of violent death. When she checks in to pick up a pricey tapestry she'd just repaired for London antiques dealer Max Loudon-Fryer and was about to deliver to the purchaser in Paris, she finds Max hanging from a ceiling beam. It falls to Zoe not only to deal with DI Kennedy, whose suspicion of a suicide without a note intensifies when the coppers find a bloodstained hammer in the boot of Max's car, but to brush safely into the background Saba Raz: the housekeeper/houri who found Max's body along with Zoe but can't afford to come into the spotlight herself. When Zoe repairs in weary chagrin to Stonecrest, the Kent estate her live-in lover, cosmetic surgeon Haydon Masure, has just bought, there's no relief: Somebody tosses a petrol bomb into the cottage of Bert Styles, the watchdog who came with the place, and kills him. What do the two fatalities have in common, Zoe wonders nervously, besides her? Although Armstrong takes so long to pull the strands of her web together that a jog-trot rhythm takes the place of suspense, there'll be time for two more murders before a posthumous letter clears up the mystery. Read full book review >
BEYOND THE PALE by Vivien Armstrong
Released: Sept. 1, 2002

"Armstrong (Rewind, 2001, etc.) handles multiple threads deftly as she weaves an arresting tale of love, betrayal, and murder."
Chiaroscuro, the art club run by suave Brit Bruce Foxon and noisy American Sophie Neuman, is the top drawer of London chic, enticing sophisticates like Lebanese Suki Nadhouri with luminaries like Ken Tyler, noted expert on Asian ceramics. But when their latest lecture ends with the discovery of Suki's corpse, knifed and then scalped, lying alongside her Ferrari, all hell breaks loose. Dispatched to the scene, Detective Chief Inspector Charlie Flood instantly runs into retired DCI Ralph Arnott, who's been hired to look into some petty theft at the club. Arnott's former sergeant, Judith Pullen, is also on the scene, not in an official capacity (since Arnott's departure, she's moved from Homicide to Serious Fraud) but because her sister Pixie invested in a membership in Chiaroscuro for her—complete with a Chiaroscuro-sponsored tour of Bath—as a Christmas gift. To Foxon and Neuman's immense relief, the investigating officer doesn't cancel the trip; Judith's boyfriend, Laurence Erskine of Special Branch, assures Flood that the murder is part of a terrorist plot to retaliate against Suki's brother for his support of the Palestinians. But Arnott goes along to Bath anyway, partly in his role as security officer, partly to probe deeper into the connection between Suki—who was holding a significant amount of cocaine the night of her death—and any other high-fliers who might be heading for a smash-up. Read full book review >
REWIND by Vivien Armstrong
Released: July 1, 2001

"Better at theatrical and boardinghouse eccentricities than police procedure. One wishes the workmanlike Armstrong (Dead in the Water, 1999, etc.) would try a less schematic approach."
The combination of no suicide note and plenty of alcohol make lead Det. Insp. Ian Preston agree that Adele Morrison's drowning in the swimming pool of a seaside hotel must have been accidental despite Adele's fight with boyfriend Brendan Underwood, who left her to take a midnight swim alone, and an obsessed husband, Professor Lawrence Morrison, who'd been fighting her divorce action. Two things happen to change Preston's mind: Adele's half-sister, beautiful actress Sylvie Reynolds, arrives from Canada and she and Preston discover Adele was as shrewd in her personal relationships as she was in business. They learn that years ago, when Adele taught at a private girls' school, she and another teacher, her married lover James Ferguson, presided over a disastrous outing during which a schoolgirl died. Professor Morrison never forgot Adele's negligence and perfidy. Then Ferguson turns up drowned along with some of the white heather found in Adele's hotel, and Preston reopens the investigation. Underwood tells Sylvie the sad story of his wife's suicide, and she enlists cook/fortuneteller/drag-queen Kevin to investigate Ferguson's restaurant, Le Pendu (The Hanged Man). Unaccountably, Kevin the tarot card reader misses the significance of the restaurant's name, but seizes the opportunity to replace Ferguson in the restaurant partnership. Kevin's adventures at the restaurant uncover the murderer, but not before nearly making him a third drowning victim. Read full book review >
FOOL’S GOLD by Vivien Armstrong
Released: Sept. 1, 2000

Leaving the designer sale she's crashed in some haste because the building has caught on fire, artist Anabel Gordon grabs the wrong handbag. It's an expensive mistake, because the bag is full of stuff innocent gate-crashers obviously aren't supposed to know anything about—stuff that may have gotten her friend Abigail Griffith murdered, stuff that's got the British police combing Venice as conscientiously for Anabel as the bag's real owner in this Hitchcock homage from Armstrong (Dead in the Water, 1999, etc.). Read full book review >
DEAD IN THE WATER by Vivien Armstrong
Released: Feb. 1, 1999

The worst thing about working as a dentist's receptionist is that it just never ends. Even after Mimsie Crane discovers her boss, Edward Chambers, stripped and strapped to his own dental chair, his privates adorned with a bunch of daffodils and the walls festooned with anatomically descriptive graffiti, and he hastily offers her a month's salary in lieu of notice on the condition that she keep mum about the affair, she still can't shake off its fallout. Though the money buys her a five-week Mediterranean vacation, the cushion isn't big enough to keep blustering Arif Khan from materializing on her return, wanting to know what's become of Edward Chambers and threatening her if she doesn't tell him. But Mimsie can't tell him: Chambers has simply vanished, presumably drowned, according to his grim sister Phoebe; and Mimsie, thoroughly intimidated by Khan, is only too happy to elude him by taking an unlikely post safely outside London, courtesy of her frequent employer-of-last-resort, builder Steve Epps. Using Mimsie's gift of gab and the nurse's uniform Chambers had her buy, Steve insinuates her into the household of retired cruise-ship captain Toby Quinn, caught between grieving for his late wife and resisting his rapacious niece's plans to consign him to a nursing home and grab his assets. The day that Mimsie finds Captain Quinn dead is also the day she learns Chambers's ex-nurse Lynne Peters has been strangled. But don't expect any closer connection between the two halves of this odd hodgepodge. Armstrong (The Wrong Road, p. 306, etc.) this time seems to be modeling herself on lesser Agatha Christie—They Came to Baghdad, say—with prose as cluttered as her plot. Read full book review >
SLEIGHT OF HAND by Vivien Armstrong
Released: May 1, 1992

Imagine the shock that Francis Swayne's char gets when she discovers the dead barrister—hanging from a bathroom beam—in frilly lingerie, lip rouge, and a red wig. And was the homemade bomb in the kitchen his handiwork? The meddlesome Swayne, who extricated his sister Sabina from a dicey university research project (fudged facts by the project leader, now disgraced) and bamboozled his brother and sister-in-law into letting him assume the education of their children, had also recently, on a legal technicality, gotten Irish terrorist O'Laughlin freed. Did Swayne's browbeaten family or a patriot do him in, or was it merely a nasty end to a bit of autoerotica? Special Branch noses about, as does Sergeant Judy Pullen, but it's Chief Inspector Ralph Arnott who'll sort through the disguises, the scientific folderol, the dalliances, and the politics to arrive at the right conclusion. The sort of mystery in which the clues are better handled than the characters (the Agatha Christie influence), but, still, a perfectly respectable first effort. Read full book review >