The bonds of friendship are sorely tried when Oxford-based lecturer-writer Loretta Lawson (A Masculine Ending, 1988, etc.) comes to the aid of her closest pal, Bridget Bennett. The decomposed body of a young woman has been found at Thebes Farm, newly purchased by Bridget and her American computer exec husband. Police and tabloids descend; Bridget, pregnant and distraught, moves in with Loretta, who's soon aware that her friend is hiding something. The victim is finally identified as an American just arrived in England, hitchhiking on a road where other attacks had occurred but not been publicized. It doesn't end there, though, as Loretta deals with crisis after crisis, endless phone calls, cups of tea, pick-up meals, and a budding affair of her own, until the clever but not quite conclusive windup. A deftly sardonic style, a coolly resourceful heroine and an intriguing puzzle add up to solid entertainment for the patient reader.