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This new case for London banker Mark Treasure is, happily, rather less bizarrely farcical than previous outings--but it has, alas, a more fundamental problem: a plot that's all knots for the first 150 pages, all explanations for the last 50. Treasure's supposed mission here: to convince old Judge Henry Nott-Herbert, who dwells in a tiny West Wales sailing village, to sell his stock in a foot-balm firm to some US corporate types. But on the rail trip to Wales, Treasure reluctantly becomes involved in enigmatic scuffles, including the attempted murder of an elusive clergyman. And when he reaches the village, he finds that the rich Judge (an amateur magician who's about to wed lovely young widow Anna Spring) is less interested in business than in a local mystery: the recent sighting of a dead, naked body. . . which then disappeared! Can all these things be connected, along with the seaside discovery of that clergyman's body? Yes indeed--but the intricate Christie-ish solution (involving Anna's lovelife, corrupt cops, an insurance scam, etc.) is bared in a series of talky clumps. And far too much twiddling, red-herring attention is given to the machinations of the foot-balm execs and their sultry spouses. Erratically paced, then, sometimes even hard to follow--but fanciers of British character comedy and church/village atmosphere will still find that Williams is a droll, erudite, reliable source.

Pub Date: Jan. 2nd, 1980
Publisher: St. Martin's