When St. Stephen’s schoolteacher Amanda Doyle insists on taking a day off for personal reasons right in the middle of flu season, expatriate American widow Dorothy Martin, a retired schoolmarm now living in the cozy English village of Sherebury with her second husband Alan, is pressed into service. Amanda’s return lasts all of one day before the police detain her for questioning. Did she stab her husband to death on her day off, then tidy up the crime scene before notifying the authorities? And did she slip a lethal dose of digitalis into his tea as well? Or is she covering up a crime committed by her nine-year-old daughter Miriam, who loathed her martinet dad, a sanctimonious pillar of the Chapel of the One True God congregation? Donning her detecting hat (velvet with a plump red rose), Dorothy ponders Amanda’s Tory politician father, whom she hasn’t spoken to in years; her prickly TV scriptwriting sister; and her quickie marriage to cover up her pregnancy. She even ventures among the One True God congregation for clues, from irregularities in church finances to Doyle’s whereabouts just before his death. Still around the bend are several train trips to London, where a Botticelli-beautiful solicitor works, a comparison of handwriting on a parliamentary pass and a lover’s note, and a serious auto accident sending Amanda, her sister, and her daughter to the hospital.
Fans of the English cozy will put the kettle on, snuggle under a lap rug, and sigh contentedly while Dorothy (To Perish in Penzance, 2001, etc.) chats up village eccentrics, meddles her way from pub to church manse, and resolves matters with Miss Marple flair.