Months after retired economist Julius Partridge tumbles to his death from a stone ledge near his cottage in the village of Brennan, Tom Brackenbury, a journalist grieving for the wife he lost to an IRA bombing, arrives in Brennan to find his sodden, sluttish widow at the center of the village’s social life. Not that that’s such a good thing, since she’s just killed orchid grower Bill Hedley’s prize plant (and perhaps Lady Winifred Bellenden’s beloved bull terrier as well). Postman Jeremiah Beale is convinced that she murdered his unborn son too; and potter Mary Reston, blinded airman Basil Oldham, and suspense novelist Henry Haven all seem to share the general assumption that she also killed her husband. When Elaine Partridge is strangled herself, readers may well share the universal reaction of relief, and the expectation of a long series of leisurely village chats. But Tom winds up the mystery in record time—and then, in an even bigger series of surprises, a fade-in a year(and two more violent deaths) later shows him honeymooning in Scotland with one of the suspects. The wedding trip leads to another murder, of course, but this latest episode, though much less compelling than the sharply etched Brennan scene, keeps throwing unexpected sidelights on the case Tom thought he’d left behind with his marriage. Though veteran Hill (The Sword and the Flame, 1992, etc.) takes her time getting around to that small black knife, readers who stay the course will be rewarded with a cunningly intricate human puzzle.