Developer Mervyn Prentiss, the wealthy Chairman of Newtown Council, is a solid citizen, and he doesn’t want any hint of scandal when he marries Alicia Simon, the daughter of Lord Allen. So it’s important for him to establish that his long-estranged wife Linde is dead, he tells solicitor Lennox Kemp (If You Go Down to the Woods, 2002, etc.), or to find and divorce her if she isn’t. Though Kemp, instinctively taking against his client, recoils from the sizeable premium he offers, he takes the case at his regular rate and hires enquiry agent Henry Pocket to trace Mrs. Prentiss, née Siegelinde Neumann—something Pocket does with such success that Prentiss pulls him off his investigations in Scarborough and packs him off to Germany, where he’ll hear a tale of Linde Neumann’s last days so pat it can’t possibly be true. Meantime, Kemp’s partner Franklyn Davey, unhappy that his fiancée, Dinah Prescott, is grief-stricken over the murder of her college friend, Scottish television producer Annabel Angus, in the World Trade Center bombing and the death just after—or was it just before?—of Annabel’s mother back home on the island of Bute that he invites her to accompany him in finding out everything they can about Annabel’s own last days, kicking off another trip that will be equally full of lies and revelations of skullduggery.
The constant cutting between what amount to two series of interviews dampens the suspense, especially since the only common factor in the two cases is the use of historic fatalities to cover up the more intimate kind.