A book club gets off to a rocky start when one of its members is murdered.
It might seem odd for Enid Frott and Sharon Burgess to start a book club together in their small town of Brunton. Only 10 years ago, Sharon’s husband, Frank, planned to leave his wife for Enid, his personal assistant, only to break off his affair with Enid instead. But Frank’s death finds his widow and his now-retired former mistress at loose ends, free to collaborate on a project that interests them both. Of course, the membership must be small and select. Sharon suggests Dick Fosdyke, a freelance political cartoonist, and Jane Preston, who teaches literature at the University of Central Lancashire. Enid’s nomination is more daring. Alfred Norbury is a provocateur, not above badgering his intellectual opponents when he sees fit. But his intellect is undeniable, and the ladies finally agree that some controversy might add spice to their club’s discussions. Alfred, highhanded to the last, doesn’t hesitate to bring his uninvited young protégé, Jamie Norris, a grocery-stacker who writes poetry by night, to the group’s first meeting, swelling their ranks to six. Of course, that number dips back down to five when someone puts a bullet in Alfred as he sits in his driveway. The murder calls the decidedly unliterary DCI Percy Peach (Brothers’ Tears, 2013, etc.) and his menacing bagman, DS Clyde Northcott, into action. Taking nothing at face value, the pair chip away at the club members’ facades until they crack the case.
Gregson’s lively portraits of suspects don’t quite make up for slapdash plotting and an unforeseeable solution.