Bamford Foreign Service worker Meredith Mitchell and Police Superintendent Alan Markby (Beneath These Stones, 2000, etc.), still unmarried, are now sharing bed and board. A casual meeting on her train commute introduces Meredith to Jan Oakley—young, handsome, fresh from Poland, but somehow smarmy. He claims to be the great-grandson of Bamford’s William Oakley, who a century before was acquitted of the arsenic poisoning of his wife Cora. The family is now reduced to Damaris and Florence, two elderly sisters preparing to sell the crumbling mansion and the expansive acreage at Fourways, the ancestral home, and move to smaller quarters. As the story shuttles back and forth from 1890 to the present, Jan arrives at Fourways, where the sisters barely tolerate him as their guest and are alarmed by his claim of a will entitling him to half the profits from the estate’s sale to builder Dudley Newman. Jan dies, however, before the sale can be completed—an apparent victim of the arsenic that gardener Ron Gladstone found in an old potting shed on the grounds. Markby and right-hand man Dave Pearce have been superseded on the case by Superintendent Minchin and Inspector Hayes from London, but it will take lots of help from Markby and other locals before the overly complex events leading to Jane’s demise are uncovered.
Interesting, persuasive characters populate a couple of strained, overelaborate plots. Still, a good read for Granger’s many fans that may even make some new ones.