The monthly meeting of Midsomer Worthy's Writers' Circle would have been fondly remembered by all six amateur scribes in attendance if the host, retired civil servant Gerald Hadleigh, hadn't been so terrified of visiting novelist Max Jennings that he begged Rex St. John not to leave them alone together--and if Rex, failing his duty, hadn't left Gerald to be murdered shortly after the meeting broke up. Since Max is nowhere to be found, Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby (Death in Disguise, 1993, etc.) and his crew reluctantly concentrate on the remaining guests, who amply repay their interest. Mousy Sue Clapton and Amy Lyddiard are at the point of turning on their domestic tormentors--Sue's supercilious husband, Brian, and Amy's insufferably snobbish sister-in-law, Honoria. Antiquer Laura Hutton was so besotted with Gerald that she pretended to be an aspiring writer just to visit his house. There's also an unknown lady who was seen entering Gerald's house after the meeting, and a lovely new spin on the old-badger game. And Max, when he's finally run to ground, tells a dazzling story that leads to still more fireworks. Graham, who deserves a wider US readership, starts out as astringently amusing as Christianna Brand in her classic Green for Danger, and then gradually broadens and deepens to P.D. James territory. What more could you want?