London civil servant Willow King, who writes romances as Cressida Woodruffe, is savoring married life with longtime lover Chief Inspector Tom Worth (Bitter Herbs, 1994, etc.) when she's asked by George Profett--the newly appointed minister for Rights and Charters--to investigate the suicide of art historian Fiona Fydgett. Did Fiona kill herself because of excessive hounding from the Inland Revenue tax assessors, as her sister Serena alleges? Willow has scarcely begun her inquiries at Inland Revenue headquarters, getting a cool reception from senior staffers Kate Moughette and Len Scoffer, when husband Tom is shot. Hospitalized, he remains in deep coma, on life support. Alternating long stays at his bedside with hours of examining files at the tax office, Willow eventually detects a pattern of bullying that may account for the next disaster in her life--an arson fire in the tax building from which she barely escapes and which kills Len Scoffer. The police do a lot of floundering about, but it's an impetuous, not to say rash, Willow who gets results, and a happy ending, too. An unhackneyed idea and venue are undermined by jumpy subplots that go nowhere and by a sleuth who comes across as high-handed, self-absorbed, and a bit of a snob. Compelling moments, but no flow.