Murder and other traumas once more intrude on the lives of a London curate and her friends in Charles’s uniquely small-town version of England’s greatest city.
Driven from her home above the church hall by roof repairs, Callie Anson (Secret Sins, 2007, etc.) asks her vicar, Brian Stanford, and his wife to take her in. Their forthcoming lack of hospitality indicates what a poor choice Callie’s made, but by then bigger problems have emerged through her reluctant involvement in the SIDS death of Muffin Betts, whose parents, after meeting on the reality series twenty-four/seven, have rocketed to wealth but not intelligence or maturity. There’s worse news: Muffin was shaken so hard weeks earlier that her unsuspected injuries may have contributed to her death. Nor do the official investigators fare much better. Callie’s boyfriend, Family Liaison Officer Mark Lombardi, is put through a bewildering variety of emotions when his sister Serena’s philandering husband suddenly dies, and again when he learns that Joe di Stefano’s death was murder. And Mark’s friend, DI Neville Stewart, enters the case when he’s dragged home from his honeymoon, with predictably disastrous effects on his new marriage. In a hundred short scenes whose cutting echoes the rhythms of daytime TV drama, Charles deftly interweaves stories of the suspects, officers and caregivers variously torn between their dreams of fame and peace and family ties that seem to promise anything but.
The mysteries, though authentic, never overwhelm the domestic dramas that unfold in Charles’s Pine Valley-on-the-Thames.