Detective Chief Inspector Jack Rudd of the Chelmsford police is surprised to find that Nina Gifford, a major player in one of his past murder cases (Portrait of Lilith, 1983), who's lived away from the area for years, is a potential witness in a local killing. The victim is Imogen Kershaw, elderly sister of the late, little-known novelist Walter Kershaw, found bludgeoned to death in the tiny museum she operated in his memory. Her body was discovered by neighbor Ambrose Scott, a friend of Waiter's since their Cambridge days. Nina had visited the museum the previous day, killing time on a nostalgic visit to the district, and heard Imogen and Scott arguing. She also met Lucy Blake there--a young woman fulsomely praising Kershaw's work--to Imogen's delight and Nina's skepticism. Another visitor was wealthy art collector Maurice Chadwick, who showed much interest in a drawing Nina thought to be a Samuel Palmer. Now, the drawing and a few other objects are missing in what appears to be a break-in and robbery. Meanwhile, Scott confesses he'd argued with Imogen over her plan to have Kershaw's best work republished--even at her own expense--a source of possible friction with Clive Osborne as well. Clive, another of Waiter's longtime friends, also managed Imogen's business affairs. Rudd and sturdy Sergeant Boyce spend a lot of time and energy interviewing possible suspects, but get nowhere until Rudd sees the crack in an impregnable alibi, providing a quiet end to a sensitively written but dullish story. A drug. dealing subplot and Rudd's tentative efforts to move closer to Nina help some but not enough. Middle. grade Thomson.