A DOUBLE COFFIN by Gwendoline Butler


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John Coffin, Chief Commander of the Second City of London, is faced with a bizarre request from onetime Prime Minster Richard Lavender by way of his biographer, Dr. Jack Bradshaw. Lavender, feeble now and cared for by great-niece Janet Neptune, claims that, back in 1913, he and his mother buried the corpse of a woman they believed was the latest victim of his father, Edward, an unsuspected serial killer. Now, a couple of anonymous letters, the questions of Marjorie Wardy, a young reporter, and his own conscience have driven Lavender to take the matter to Coffin. He wants the corpse retrieved and properly buried. That same reporter, under her real name Jamie Layard, is the volatile girlfriend of actor Martin Marlowe, an up-and- coming star in the repertory company headed by Coffin’s actress wife Stella Pinero (A Dark Coffin, 1996, etc.). Martin and his sister Clara, a physician, have a criminal past of their own that the police must take into account when Jamie is found murdered, dressed in an ancient jacket bearing Edward Lavender’s name. All of this is complicated further when the burial area pinpointed by Lavender is dug up, revealing an empty coffin and the skeletons of a man and a pregnant woman. This turgid thicket of a plot, though spottily intriguing and capped with a neat final twist, gets no help from its unfocused narrative style or the dull inner musings of Coffin and others. Way off the mark for this veteran author of better things.

Pub Date: June 17th, 1998
ISBN: 0-312-18569-3
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1998


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