The widow, of course, is angular, witty Arlette van der Valk, whose celebrated inspector husband Piet was killed off some years back (a move that Freeling perhaps now regrets). Arlette is here remarried, to veddy English sociologist Arthur, and living in Strasbourg, where she has forged into a new career--freelance all-purpose counseling, Dear Abby for hire. This brings her three potentially dangerous cases: a distraught housewife getting up the courage to leave her husband (he tries to rape Arlette); a spacey young girl (perhaps into drugs) battling her oppressive, influential father and uncle (she becomes an endless house-guest); and an odd man with a secret he can't bear to tell. Arlette gets shot at and semi-kidnapped along the way, but Freeling is more interested in character than detection and action--in particular the edgy give-and-take between independent Arlette and her eager-to-please new husband. That, plus Freeling's distinctive style (never more elusively idiosyncratic, but worth the effort), are the main attractions here; so--a continental treat, but hardly for the rank-and-file mystery readership.