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by M.C. Beaton

Pub Date: March 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-312-20772-7
Publisher: Minotaur

In a rare departure from her usual fictional sleuths, Hamish MacBeth and Agatha Raisin, Beaton here introduces Fellworth Dolphin, the painfully shy, insecure, 40-ish son of penny-pinching, recently deceased parents. His father Charles was a signalman at the time of a still talked-about train robbery some years back. When Fell discovers a substantial trove of cash hidden in the house and is told by local lawyers that his mother had left him a small fortune, he begins to explore the details of that train robbery, his interest shared by Maggie Partlett, a waitress he’d met while working in the local hotel. Maggie now shares his house, providing protection from his smothering Aunt Agnes, who had threatened to move in. There’s a sudden appearance of Andy Briggs, son of one of the men convicted of the robbery. He wants money from Fell, claiming to have proof of his father’s participation in the crime. The confrontation turns violent; Briggs departs, leaving Fell and Maggie to continue their probing, uncovering in the process the identity of Fell’s true parents and the source of that long-concealed income. There are more repercussions when Fell begins to suspect retired Inspector Rudfern of complicity in the robbery he was investigating. That confrontation has a tragic aftermath, but it provides some answers even as Fell and Maggie’s relationship takes fire.

Confused plotting and uninspired characters make for an easy-to-read, easy-to-forget excursion: not quite up to Beaton’s usual standard.