Fifteen years after driving his long-suffering first wife out of his hearth and home and into a convent, the magnetic, dangerous Hugo Bourdillon, who's capable of sending you flowers and a fat check the morning after attacking you with a wine bottle, has murdered his second. Or so it seems to the Gloucestershire police. But Sister Agnes, who's left her order in London to return to her ex-husband's unlovable side, doesn't believe Hugo really stabbed Philippa Bourdillon to death; despite his amply documented history of abusive behavior, he'd never been one for knives or bondage gear, as Philippa's flamboyant friend Athena Paneotou, who seduced Hugo on commission from Philippa, duly notes. Guided by Athena and an unlikely gaggle of sullen teenagers, Agnes delves into Philippa's equally sordid private life and uncovers a clever, ruthless blackmail plot Philippa shared with her ``business partner'' David Mellersh--a plot much more likely to have led to her murder, as it's likely to lead to others. Though charismatic, monstrous Hugo and self-tormenting clotheshorse nun Agnes aren't the most realistic characters you've ever met, first-novelist Joseph writes with such pointed authority that she has you believing in them in spite of yourself.