A bizarre series of local events dogs the quiet life of policewoman Charmian Daniels, on sabbatical, as she moves from London to Windsor to research her thesis on women in crime. Charmian's apartment, above that of her old friend Anny Cooper, a potter, is in a gentrified mews called Wellington Yard, shared by shopkeeper-taxi-driver/ex-cop Jerome; the Robertsons with their newspaper shop and many children; a bakery, etc. Unease begins with Charmian's feeling that the group of women she's interviewing--all ex-convicts--is up to something, led by sharp, grasping Laraine Finch. Then, too, Anny's slightly wayward daughter Kate has gone off with her hot-tempered boyfriend Harry. Also missing are Drs. Amanda Rivers and James Cook, overdue at their local hospital jobs from a Greek holiday. And there's a baby-borrower at large who returns the snatched infants within days. Matters take a particularly sinister turn when parts of headless bodies start turning up and Kate's expensive suitcase is found in a nearby ditch. Then the Robertsons' youngest is kidnapped--and the Royals' appearance at Ascot reveals Laraine's scam. Meanwhile, Charmian speculates, keeps in touch with her superiors, and leaves the investigating largely to them--until coincidence forces her into a showdown with a killer. Neatly worked-out suspense, slightly forced at times but much helped by the Windsor background and the story's believable heroine. The author's second novel (Tarot's Tower, 1976) in a decade; fans of the English village genre will hope for more frequent appearances by this talented writer.