Dewhurst’s stage-trained actress/detective is forced to adopt a new role for protective coloration in this one-woman version of the Witness Protection Program.
Being always in character can be a burden to the Peter Piper Detective Agency’s star operative, Phyllida Moon Pusey, who takes advantage of a moment of freedom to venture into Wright and Son, Seaminster’s premier jewelers, only to witness a botched robbery that ends when the thieves shoot the proprietor. Feeling exposed, Phyllida goes to ground in the Golden Lion hotel, whose staff have long provided her with a room in which to change character. There she’s joined by her boss Peter, whose secret crush on her makes him doubly afraid for her safety, and by DCI Maurice Kendrick, another admirer who wants to protect his lone witness and the object of his unannounced affection. Intuiting that murder, not robbery, was the object of the crime, Phyllida assumes the persona of Amy Pearson, an “American sophisticate” who persuades shop assistant Mabel Brightman that she’s a longtime friend of Mr. Wright’s and wangles an invitation to the funeral. When she meets the remaining Wrights—daughter Eleanor, housebound by diabetes; sister-in-law Madge; niece April; nephew John; and elderly aunt Hester—she’s sure her killer’s among them.
Dewhurst’s fondness for inner monologue, even when Phyllida (No Love Lost, 2002, etc.) is in character, makes her heroine’s masquerade both bizarre and utterly pedestrian.