Gardner, sometime Boswell to Ian Fleming’s 007, benches moribund Bond and sends in a much livelier alternate: DS Suzie Mountford.
Making her third appearance in this fizzy series (Bottled Spider, 2000, etc.) is the smart and sexy star of DCS Tommy Livermore’s Murder Squad. The time is 1942, and the Americans are a leading presence in the tiny village of King’s Lynn. But suddenly, horribly, the quick Yanks matter less than the dead: the former Virginia Anstead, daughter of a US Senator, along with her English husband and their young son. Although Virginia was also the former girlfriend of Flying Fortress Captain Ricky LeClaire, USAAF, stationed nearby, there’s little warmth in his memories of his ex-sweetheart, or in those of the locals who knew her as the sharp, supercilious mate of Max Ascoli, brilliant barrister and long-term King’s Lynn resident. Clearly, Virginia was eminently dislikable. But Suzie and Dandy Tom, her boss and ardent lover, want a motive more visceral. Who in King’s Lynn hated her passionately enough to slaughter the entire Ascoli family? And how can Suzie address the even more pressing problem of the grudge-bearing homicidal psychopath who’s been stalking her?
Bear with the plotting flaws, and you’ll see that Gardner, in his 49th novel, can still make you turn those pages.