Is Rowlands aiming for a harder edge than in her four novels about ladylike mystery writer Melissa Craig (Exhaustive Enquiries, 1994, etc.)? Her detective this time is a professional who’s intimately involved with a particularly gruesome murder. Scene of Crime Officer Sukey Reynolds, who works with the Cotswolds CID, is summoned to a break-in at the home of seigneurial Myrna Maxford, only to find the mistress of the house stabbed and slashed to death. Hours before, Myrna had announced to her disappointed lieutenants that she’d decided to refuse a lucrative takeover for the domestic fittings business she’d inherited, and warned longtime Dearley estate tenant Emily (“Pussy”) Willow that she’d decided to raise capital for the company instead by selling the land out from under Pussy’s cottage. As if her imperious behavior weren’t enough to make Myrna murderable, she’d evidently been blackmailing every one of her business associates and also toying with an aspiring lesbian lover under the nose of her consort, Paul Reynolds, who just happens to be Sukey’s ex. Unlike Minette Walters or Reginald Hill, who could’ve generated memorable heat beneath the placid surface, Rowlands, as her comfy title suggests, is content to stir the pot absently, parceling out one guilty secret per character, like a party hostess dispensing favors, as she works up to unmasking a thoroughly unconvincing killer. CID trappings aside, it’s the old English village formula, with a cast by turns unmemorable and incredible.