A country-house weekend provides the perfect setting for an Agatha Christie homage.
Retired Chief Constable Alan Nesbit and his American wife Dorothy Martin have been invited to Branston Abbey for a bang-up Guy Fawkes celebration by their expat friends Lynn and Tom Anderson. The Abbey has been lovingly restored by the Andersons’ acquaintances Joyce and Jim Moynihan. Fellow house guests include the former owner of Branston, Laurence Upshawe; famous photographer Ed Walinski; ballet dancer Michael Leonev; and Joyce’s often inebriated sister and brother-in-law, Julie and Dave Harrison. They’re joined for dinner, cooked and served by the talented Mr. and Mrs. Bates, by stunning solicitor Pat Heseltine and Paul Leatherbury, the local vicar. All is well, except for the drunken relatives, until a storm severely damages the house and grounds. In the light of day, Dorothy discovers a skeleton entwined in an uprooted oak. With no electricity or phone service and the house cut off by flood waters, Dorothy feels as if she’s stepped into “Ten Little Indians,” especially when Upshawe is found unconscious; Dave Harrison goes missing; and a mummified body turns up in what was perhaps a priest’s hole. It takes fortitude just to manage without the trappings of modern life, but Dorothy and Alan still can’t resist sleuthing while they await the police. As in so many classic English mysteries, the answer may be found in the past.
Dams (Winter of Discontent, 2004, etc.) provides several pleasing twists along with an easily spotted killer.