Oxford-educated Detective Sergeant Jack Gibbons and wealthy amateur sleuth Philip Betancourt become embroiled in a murder too hot for the local Surrey constabulary to handle.
When elderly Geoffrey Berowne is found dead, it’s not from the expected heart attack but poisoning by lilies of the valley. Not only is Annette, his much younger wife, in for a lot of lovely lolly, but Geoffrey is the third older husband she’s lost, and gossip is rife. Another likely prospect is Geoffrey’s son Paul, who besides the obvious motive is stuck in a loveless marriage. Paul’s wife Marion has an alibi but stands to inherit a sizable sum. Maddie Wellman, Geoffrey’s sister-in-law from his first marriage, is resentful of his marriage to Annette. Even the servants are in for legacies. Annette is the type men love and women hate. Not especially beautiful, witty or intelligent, she nevertheless has an inescapable allure, and things really get chancy for Jack when he succumbs to her wiles. Aware that his friend’s career is at stake, Betancourt uses all his skills and social connections to help solve the case before Jack’s infatuation leads to disaster.
Despite his pretensions, Betancourt is no Lord Peter Wimsey, and it’s a bit of a stretch to picture ambitious, career-minded Jack falling for Annette. But Chan’s debut does keep you guessing until the end.