TV researcher Alex Tanner (An Uncommon Murder, 1993), setting up as a part-time PI, snares an improbably rich (though anonymous) client the first time out: someone willing to go through an intermediary, a plush London lawyer, to have her ascertain the state of mind of Olivier de Sauvigny Desmoulins just before he drowned in the swimming pool at Rissington Abbey, a boarding school. Settling in at the Abbey, which she describes as ""50% boring, 50% spooky,"" under a cover story (she's doing fieldwork for a show profiling headmasters of private schools) that makes for some clumsy moments, sharp-witted Alex soon realizes that it's no ordinary school (it earns its astronomical fees by taking in the refuse of other schools' shores); staffed by no ordinary masters (Olivier's housemaster got his job when he dropped out of the seminary, and his boss, the headmaster, got h/s job by marrying his own boss's daughter); and that Olivier, a self-possessed sneak with a special interest in eavesdropping, was no ordinary student. Together with the drolly exasperating Watson figure who's glommed onto her, Alex, following in the footsteps of Cordelia Gray (P.D. James's Unsuitable Job for a Woman inspires much of the plot), finds toads at every turn, from Olivier's guilty secret to her client's, until the possibility of murder seems the least of Rissington's problems. An expertly dry-eyed tour of the stiff-upper-lip horrors of Rissington, with Alex as a marvelously acerbic guide. Strongly recommended for those who like their tea cakes tart.