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Toronto's Inspector Charlie Salter, who made a splendid first appearance in last year's The Night the Gods Smiled, returns, as scratchily likable as before--even if his case (and the Canadian background) isn't quite so compelling this time around. The murder victim is low-level antique dealer Cyril Drecker, who dies of smoke inhalation when someone sets fire to his shop. At first the suspects emerge from a web of domestic/sexual relationships: Drecker has both an unloving wife and an unloving mistress; the mistress has another, married lover; and Drecker's gay assistant, who happens to live next door to the mistress, has a jealous lover. . . who's suspiciously missing! Soon, however, another line of inquiry seems more promising to Charlie--when he learns that the late Drecker recently had posession of some valuable Japanese prints, eagerly bought by an enigmatic elderly Japanese man. Did Drecker's notorious greed, then (buying cheap, selling dear), get him killed--for revenge? So it seems. . . with Charlie closing in on a highly sympathetic, half-unintentional murderer. Despite some tangled tedium among the red herrings: another agreeable mix of dogged sleuthing and low-key personality--as laconic Charlie, when not on the job, deals with his edgy wife, his not-so-healthy body, and his 14-year-old son's burgeoning interest in sex.

Pub Date: Dec. 11th, 1984
Publisher: Scribners