DEATH UNDERTOW by Dennis Casley


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 A second outing for Kenya's Chief Inspector James Odhiambo (Death Underfoot, 1994) takes him to the Cornwall coast to attend a seminar on rural development in the Commonwealth. Participants are housed in the Polsand Seminar Centre, an old mansion in heavily wooded grounds next to the sea. There, James, now married, unexpectedly finds onetime lover Helen Shropshire working in administration. Also unexpected is the spate of tragedies that begin with the drowning murder of Indian delegate Javi Mahendra. An infamous womanizer, Mahendra was currently involved in affairs with Penny Deane, whose husband is the Centre's director, and with Muriel Gregson, wife of the delegate from the Overseas Development Administration. Mahendra's death is quickly followed by the brutal murder of Penny Deane--her body found by James and Helen on a clifftop walk. James's presence at the discovery of both bodies and his persistent professional observations don't endear him to the openly racist Detective Chief Inspector Bill Pendham. Meanwhile, rumors of drug-trafficking and the oddities among other locals also catch James's attention: gloomy restaurant-owner Bastian, who'd once lived in India, now resident in the Centre's gatehouse with his effeminate ``son'' Nigel; surly boatman Daniel Menherian; and Muriel Gregson's friend Angela Tamlyn, who owns a house nearby. There are more deaths, some cliffside heroics, and a wild sea voyage before it's all over in a flurry of lame exposition and hazy theorizing. The coastal scene is nicely evoked, but clumsy plotting and an unfocused narrative style mar a story that's only sporadically engrossing.

Pub Date: Dec. 11th, 1995
ISBN: 0-312-13643-9
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1995