Strange things are happening in the quiet country lanes of Shropshire, bailiwick of Detective Chief Inspector Neil Paget. The Thornton Hill School for Girls and Glenacres, a horse farm owned by Jack Lucas, are next-door neighbors. Paget is called to the school when 17-year-old Monica Shaw, a diabetic and the daughter of government economist Julia Shaw, is found dead in her bed the day after Christmas. Shy, awkward Monica, the only student in residence over the holidays, had been invited to a party at Glenacres the previous day by Sally Pritchard, one of the grooms, and had come back to the school drunk and distraught, according to sympathetic schoolmistress Jane Wolsey. Paget is thinking suicide (an overdose of insulin), but the autopsy finds death due to an aneurysm and the case is closed. In the meantime, a violent death has occurred at Glenacres, where Victor Prescott, a newcomer to the staff, has been killed--gruesomely--in one of the barns. As it turns out, Prescott was not his real name, and he appears to have had some dark connection to Dr. Andrea Macmillan, with whom Paget, a widower, had been enjoying a slowly flowering friendship. It takes another death, many misplaced suspicions, and some rigorous questioning before the haunting truth is bared. This first in a series from Canadian author Smith (Dragon's Breath, 1980) is suspenseful from the start, uncovering its tangled web of relationships--conventional and otherwise--at a leisurely pace: a sturdy '90s version of the British procedural, with Inspector Paget a model of the gentleman copper. Good show all round.