The welcome return of wily Wessex poacher Dan Mallett (Snare in the Dark, Death in the Rain, etc.)--who's still putting on ""his yokel-philosopher act"" for the local gentry, still going strong as an unprepossessing Casanova, still dabbling in grand larceny (justified, as ever, by his poor old mum's need for an expensive hip operation). This time, in the splendid opening chapters, Dan's latest heist goes wildly awry: he's all ready to steal the antique silver from Medwell Court, a manse recently bought by a rich stranger--when he witnesses the murder of a security guard by none other than. . .the rich new homeowner, Mr. Harold Dartie! Furthermore, Dartie--who was out to steal his own silver in an insurance scare--gets a good look at Dan before they escape from each other in a fierce little chase sequence. How can Dan hide from the ruthless Dartie--but also stay close enough to watch over his mum in her isolated cottage? Well, there just happens to be a Summer Symposium on the Performing Arts going on at a nearby priory. So, with help from brusque American girl Sukie Bush, Dan--using an alias and a posh accent--joins the rather pathetic amateur mummers at the two-week Symposium. And, to his surprise, Dan finds that his odd new Symposium chums are ready and willing to support him in the mini-war against Dartie--who is ultimately exposed (thanks to some outlandish playacting) as a multi-murdering super-villain. In the second half, then, the bucolic action here gets a bit corny and far-fetched, without the ironic tautness of that compelling start-up. Still, Parrish's lean stylishness and Dan's laconic wit make this distinctive, if slight, entertainment--especially for those who've gotten to know the incorrigible, chameleon-like poacher in previous outings.