This veteran author's pace--almost never lively--seems slowest when retired botany professor Andrew Basnett (Something Wicked, etc.) is doing the sleuthing. Here, Andrew, long a widower and getting fussier as he ages, is attending a conference of the Botanical Association at his old university in Knotlington. The academic community is still talking about the two-year-old murder of painter Carl Judd--for which botanist Stephen Sharland is serving a life sentence, convicted largely on the evidence of university registrar Kenneth Marriott. But there are plenty of people who doubt Sharland's guilt, among them Judd's wife Margaret, who seems to have been inured to her husband's affairs--the one with Sharland's wife Gwen providing a motive for the murder. Judd's previous liasion with Veronica Greenslade had ended in her suicide, and now Andrew sees a marked deterioration in his old friend Walter, her devoted bachelor brother. Meanwhile, everyone's eager to talk at boring length to Andrew, his reputation of solving murders preceding him--but he has little to offer until Marriott is found strangled in what looks like a robbery. Evidence of blackmail surfaces and a suicide occurs before Andrew gets a grip on things--in a twisty surprise solution that comes too late to revive the tortuous proceedings. Ferrars fans know what to expect. It's sleepy-time for most others.