Another of the author’s literate explorations of life and death in the town of Sturrenden and environs, where Inspector Luke Thanet and his faithful Sergeant Lineham bear the brunt of infrequent murder investigations (Once Too Often, 1998, etc.). The victim now is Virginia Mintaur'wife of lawyer Ralph, mother of Caroline and Rachel'whose body has been found at the bottom of the decorative well adorning her prized garden. Virginia had disappeared the previous evening while entertaining neighbors Howard and Marilyn Squires; Rachel and tennis coach Matthew Agon, who have just announced their engagement; and Virginia’s sister Jane and her boyfriend Arnold Prime. When the postmortem indicates murder, Thanet probes for means and motives. The latter abound as Virginia’s many extramarital beaux come to light, among them Squires and Agon, with Prime clearly next in line. There’s no love lost, either, between Virginia and Ralph’s mother, an acerbic globetrotter who lives in an annex of the Mintaur house. Is there some connection to Caroline’s elopement four years ago with the gardener’s son Dick Swain, whose witchlike mother still lives nearby'the couple unheard from all this time? Malice and mischief, past and present, provide a wealth of motives until Thanet, besieged by family worries of his own, manages to solve more puzzles than one. Straightforward and absorbing, deftly written and adroitly plotted: another quiet winner for Simpson.