A Scottish novelist copes with the departure of his live-in lover and the death of his black Lab by taking on board a new dog, a new woman and more trouble.
Out walking Umber, his chocolate Lab, Tim Russell stumbles on a ragged young woman encamped in a makeshift shelter. He lures her to his house with the promise of a hot bath, a change of clothes and no strings. Under his not-quite-fatherly care, Edith Ann Erskine quickly blossoms, but their relationship changes when Tim’s attacked while working in his garden. Who lofted a missile at his head? Sadly, inoffensive Tim has been making enemies. Among them: Hooper, the stepfather who sold Ann’s house out from under her and now stubbornly insists she return to him, and Woodworm Waller, the dealer who bought her household belongings for a song. Their assorted reasons for wanting to brain Tim are compelling, but then a solicitor arrives with an even stronger motive. Ann’s uncle, Angus Tirrell, has died and left her enough cash to brighten every eye she’s caught, especially if she can be enticed away from Tim before they can marry and make wills in each others’ favor. Alas, their immediate nuptials so lower the tension that Hammond (The Fingers of One Foot, 2009, etc.) has to kill off one of the suspects to raise the stakes.
More village romance than mystery, and none the worse for it.