A serial poisoner’s first target is the Hard Detective of the Greater Birchester Police.
One minute Detective Superintendent Harriet Martens is dozing poolside at the Majestic Insurance Club; the next she’s being rushed off to the loo with her husband’s fingers down her throat. Thanks to John Piddock’s quick thinking and memory of the imaginary Agatha Christie puzzler Twisted Wolfsbane Harriet doesn’t die from the aconitine slipped into her Campari and soda, but she’s in for a three-month convalescence. While she’s grumbling in bed, however, her attacker is improving his technique, dispatching an apprentice motor mechanic, a City Hall telephone operator and a decorous widow who aren’t lucky enough to be saved by any devoted readers of detective fiction. But it’s the next victim who really gets the attention: flamboyant Sir Billy Bell, former Lord Mayor of Birchester. Suddenly the case is whisked from Supt. Pat Murphy’s hands by officious Commander Rance, of the National Crime Squad, who sends Harriet back to her sickbed, while the local newspaper publishes a letter from one “Mentor” demanding a million-pound payment for ceasing his attacks on the godless masses of Birchester. Is the killer the citified man seen digging up some wolfshood roots on Halsell Common or the old lady seen poisoning Harriet’s drink at the Majestic Club?
Middling for this quirky series, less penetrating than A Detective in Love (2002) but more resourceful and substantial than A Detective Under Fire (2004).