Stansfield's Detective Chief Inspector Lloyd and D.I. Judy Hill, his lover, housemate, and second-in-command (Murder . . . Now and Then, 1993, etc.) face a puzzling mystery in the murder of schoolgirl Natalie Ouspensky. A 15-year-old student at Oakland School, rumored to be promiscuous, Natalie is found dead by dog-walking Erica Cochrane in a local park--strangled, possibly raped; car skid marks are discovered nearby. Erica, married to Colin, a sports teacher at the school and a celebrity class runner, has been doubtful of her husband's fidelity since finding an incriminating, unsigned letter some time back, and it's not long before Colin is at the station, helping police with their enquiries. There's another straying husband at the school--new teacher Patrick Murray, a lying charmer--as well as other students on the prowl, like Colin-worshipping Hannah Walters. Everyone with a possible involvement is questioned at excruciating length by Lloyd and his team, and every theory wrestled to the ground, but it takes another death and a final, painstaking round of questioning to bring the case to a close. The denouement is both ingenious and convincing, but the road to it is tortuous, as is the author's belabored examination of rocky marriages and of Lloyd's own alliance with Judy. Only for the most slavishly devoted fans of the British procedural.