Poisoned Pen exhumes a 1976 novel by Sims (1923-99) as further evidence in support of the proposition that “life is an obstacle race with most of the obstacles grouped at the far end.”
Antiques dealer Leo Selver, still an incorrigible girl-chaser at 50, thinks he’s struck gold when sometime model Judy Latimer returns his appraising gaze in kind. He’s soon caught up in an on-again, off-again tango in which he alternates between fantasies of sex with her and sudden chilling spates of withdrawal on her side or his. Will they or won’t they achieve their hearts’ desire? In the end, they do, but before they can confirm whether it really is their hearts’ desire, they’re both murdered by a mysterious stalker who’s already dispatched Leo’s friend and hard-edged furniture dealer Sidney Chard, whose smashed kneecap provided his assailant with a killing advantage. His starting cast deceased, Sims shifts gears to provide a workmanlike if not exactly inspiring replacement, Ed Buchanan, a rolling-stone former race-car driver whose parents were longtime friends of Leo’s family. It’s Ed, encouraged by Leo’s estranged wife, Beatrice, who makes the rounds asking questions among Leo’s friends in the antiques community, shrugging off readily predictable attacks by well-placed crooks and eventually discovering a list of mostly dead British notables that will lead him to a killer who’s surprising only because he’s such a minor character.
More proficient than The Last Best Friend (reviewed below) but less distinctive; after the brilliantly overheated opening movement, the detection is strictly routine, with little to show at the appropriately inconclusive fade-out.