The colonel (Old Soldiers Never Die, 1999) investigates another murder in his own backyard.
The times they are a-changing for the Dorset village of Frog End. The happy-clappy vicar favors guitars over the organ, and the Victorian homes are being renovated into posh condominiums, owned not just by the typical retired major back from Malaysia but also by an artist and a gay couple. The colonel, as everyone calls him, accepts these changes stoically, just as he’s coming to accept the loss of his wife Laura 11 years ago. Whiskey, gardening and Gilbert and Sullivan operettas no longer give enough meaning to his days, but still he soldiers on. While collecting money for a worthy cause, he comes upon the corpse of glamorous Lois Delaney, a faded stage star who even in death seems to plead with him to find the truth about her demise. Despite the constabulary’s unshakable certainty that Lois committed suicide, the colonel questions her family and neighbors, all of whom answer each query in exhaustive detail without the slightest hesitation. The simplicity of this procedure leads directly to predictable revelations.
Mayhew (The Boat Girls, 2007, etc.) has melded what might have been a classically cozy English whodunit with oddly dissonant bits of a mournful contemporary novel. The amalgam is as unsatisfying as the conclusion is implausibly convenient.