Who did journalist Phoebe Agnew invite over for one of her rare home-cooked meals, a repast that wound up with her splayed across the bed, naked from the waist down, with her neck broken? When her best pals, Josh and Noni Prentiss, who have known her since their university days 30 years ago, unleash a barrage of conflicting lies as their alibis, Shepherd’s Bush D.I. Bill Slider and his sidekick D.S. Atherton decide that they rather fancy Josh as their main suspect. Still, there are others to investigate: Phoebe’s neighbor Peter Medmenham, a grieving old queen who’s just broken up with Josh’s brother Piers; Piers himself, reluctant to involve his new beau, fast-track junior minister Richard Tyler, the subject of a biography Phoebe had been working on; and Phoebe’s ever-so-conventional sister, who reveals why the gorgeous, free-spirited Phoebe never married and, despite her libertarian views, was violently antiabortion. Before the dust has settled, many more lies will be told, one more victim will be strangled like Phoebe, and Atherton, fleeing commitment in his own relationship, will hover at the edge of a breakdown, while Slider, officially divorced from Irene, will have some serious choices to make regarding his longtime love, Joanna.
A comedown from Shallow Grave (1999), but if the puzzle is atypically unpuzzling for Harrod-Eagles—almost transparent, really—her characters are deliciously droll, and she writes with all her customary biting wit and a complexity all too rare in mystery fiction.