The best of this follow-up to an attractive debut (Strained Relations) is the leisurely groundwork that precedes the far-into-the-story murder. There are problems galore in the tiny enclave of houses next to Redlands Home for the Elderly. Capable matron Thelma Douglas is considering reconciliation with once-alcoholic husband Keith, just released from his long prison term for a near-killing. But their adolescent son Gary hates the idea. Dainty, 80-ish Celia Parrish and her neighbor, retired sea-captain Tom Anstruther, are anticipating the visit of his unmarried granddaughter, Janice, and her toddler son, Simon. Paraplegic Naomi Lamb lives with retired social-worker sister Rebecca, next door to her one-time lover Andrew Willis, who shares his house with daughter Joanna and her thoroughly nasty husband Stuart, who knows everyone's secrets and finally gets his comeuppance, but not until page 146. The murder of Naomi's purported illegitimate daughter does nothing to rescue the story's downhill slide. Solidly absorbing as a novel of human relations, the author's lovingly built picture of the culprit totally undermines his credibility as a murderer.