A trio of dog walkers in Oxford takes on their third case of murder (Written in Red, 2016, etc.).
Anna Hopkins and her friends have been roped into playing roles in a murder mystery theme-party weekend that ends on a sobering note when the corpse of striking Lili Rossetti is found on the manor grounds. The three friends are no strangers to crime and death. Isadora, the elder stateswoman of the group, comes from a family of Holocaust survivors; Tansy is a mobster’s daughter trying to walk the straight and narrow; and Anna’s family was brutally murdered by a still unidentified killer when she was only 16. Determined to face her family history, Anna visits Hempels, the auction house where her father worked all his life. There, she overhears a sad, disquieting tale: a visitor, David Fischer, claims that Hempels has made off with a priceless unknown painting by Vermeer stolen from his family during the Holocaust. Anna meets with Fischer, is persuaded by his documents, and learns that Lili Rossetti was collaborating with him to reclaim the painting. When Fischer dies in a suspicious fire, Anna and her friends take off on a risky continental hunt for the truth.
Heaps of implausible back stories aren’t an adequate substitute for character development. The prose can’t support the histrionic intrigue, no justice is served, and the mystery falls flat.