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ABSENT FRIENDS by Gillian Linscott


by Gillian Linscott

Pub Date: May 7th, 1999
ISBN: 0-312-20765-4
Publisher: St. Martin's

It’s 1918. The Great War is over, and, in England, a general election has been called. Suffragette Nelly Bray (Dance on Blood, 1998, etc.), thrilled to be part of the first woman’s vote, is eagerly looking for a constituency and financial backing to enable her to be one of a handful of female candidates. An unexpected offer comes from a Mrs. Lucinda Sollers in Duxbury, a friend of Nelly’s sculptor friend Moira. Lucinda’s manufacturer husband Charles, one of the two Duxbury Coalition candidates, was killed by a firecracker stuffed with explosives at the end of a celebratory tow bonfire. His rival Jonas Tedder had been present but left before the fireworks display. Now Charles’s young nephew Peter Chavis has convinced Lucinda (by very unconventional means) that Tedder killed her husband. Nelly accepts Lucinda’s offer of money support, as well as the offer of Captain Bill Musgrave, an old love presently on leave, to act as her agent. The two check into The King’s Head and meet Mr. Wilby, a taciturn guest who eventually adds a gruesome puzzle to a series of violent happenings in the town. There’s more, much more, before Sollers’s true killer emerges and Nelly heads back to London, mission accomplished. Linscott’s style has a nice, easy swing; her feel for time and place rings true. But all is blighted by the hydra-headed, patience-testing overflow of plot.