Inspector Thanet and sturdy aide Sergeant Lineham are faced once more with a stubbornly resistant puzzle (Doomed to Die, 1991, etc.)--this time when elderly, autocratic Isobel Fairleigh is found smothered to death in her sickbed while the annual charity fàte surges busily outside, on the grounds of Thaxden Hall. Isobel's coolly handsome son and local MP, Hugo Fairleigh, and his elegant wife Grace share the Hall with Isobel and her ineffectual sister Letty. Thanet pursues his careful interviews round and round, ruling out intruders and exploring a family history that includes the loss of Grace and Hugo's retarded infant son a few years back and Hugo's present involvement with his onetime fiancÇe Pamela Raven. An enigmatic note in Isobel's diary--along with one of Thanet's insightful moments--heads, slowly, to the denouement. Wordy but solidly reasoned plotting and mildly interesting characters provide another in Simpson's leisurely, literate series in the British Traditional mode.