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Now that he’s savoring the joys of marriage to unlicensed nurse Hester Latterly, enquiry agent William Monk (A Breach of Promise, 1998, etc.) is all the quicker to feel the distress of Lucius Stourbridge, whose fiancÇe, bewitching widow Miriam Gardiner, vanished from the middle of a croquet match at the Stourbridge home in Cleveland Square. And when James Treadwell, the Stourbridge coachman who carried the lady off at her request, is found murdered near Hampstead Heath, Miriam’s peril is only deepened: she’s arrested for his murder. Nor does Hester’s own subplot offer any relief, since her investigation into the disappearance of anaesthetic medicines from North London Hospital leads her straight to the woman the police will call Miriam’s conspirator. Even after a second shocking murder whose motives remain stubbornly obscure, the facts of the case seem simple and damning, and Monk’s friend (and Hester’s former suitor) Sir Oliver Rathbone, stonewalled by his silent clients, accepts the defense brief without a clue how to proceed. But Perry—though her main mission, as usual, is to criticize the 19th century by showing how much more enlightened the 20th is about medical standards, veterans’ rights, and the endless duel over the status of women—manages a climactic thunderbolt that will leave even her most loyal fans gasping. What fearful secret could lead Miriam to prefer trial and execution to telling her story? No writer since Agatha Christie has been so good at teasing her audience with such obvious questions until choosing to ring down the curtain. (Mystery Guild selection)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-345-43325-4
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Ballantine
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 2000


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