A fatal accident that tangles the fates of three ill-assorted people when two cars crash into each other outside a Gloucester village raises urgent questions about the living.
Hours after being ejected from the Lamb, Viv Holland’s pub in Lower Slaughter, her former boss Fergus O’Reilly, who’s turned up without warning and pressed her to take a new job 12 years after she quit his Michelin-rated Chelsea restaurant, is found dead after a collision outside the village. Nor is he the only victim: Nell Greene, the Lamb patron who’d picked up Fergus when she saw him walking uncertainly along the road to drive him to the hospital, has also died at the scene. And there’s evidence that Fergus was fatally poisoned even before the crash. The Met’s Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid and his wife, DI Gemma James, are on hand to investigate because they’ve accepted an invitation to stay at Beck House, the home of DS Melody Talbot’s wealthy parents, Sir Ivan and Lady Adelaide Talbot, for whom Viv has agreed to cater an elaborate charity luncheon. But Kincaid, who was driving the car Nell struck and survived the collision only to see Nell die as he looked on helplessly, isn’t himself either physically or mentally, and the solution seems a long way off. There’ll be another murder, a series of increasingly revealing flashbacks to Viv’s stint at O’Reilly’s 12 years ago, and endless updates on the sexual histories of the suspects with the victims, each other, and the police. Through it all, Kincaid and Gemma (Garden of Lamentations, 2017, etc.) keep stiff upper lips even when the dark revelations reach into Beck House.
Leisurely, conscientiously plotted, smoothly written, and more surprising in its details than its larger arc.