The author's newest is in the English village/solid police-work tradition and one of her best. Three women of vastly different backgrounds have had their throats slashed on the towpath along the Purle River running through Wychford, a town that Detective Chief Inspector Luke Abbott, sent in by the Regional Police Force, had left 18 years before. The first victim was Beryl Tompkins, hard-working cleaner at a local photo. processing plant--mother of two with an out-of-work husband. Promiscuous, self-obsessed and pregnant Win Frenholm, who lived with a gay cousin and his partner in a local crafts center, was next, followed by Mabel Peacock, doyenne of Peacock Manor, who was now married to suave Basil Taubman, still hectoring son Mark and fighting plans for saving the money-eating stately mansion. Widower Luke's job is complicated by his feelings for Dr. Jennifer Earnes, a teen-age love also recently returned to Wychford in order to share her stroke-felled uncle's practice with Dr. David Gregson--one of Luke's prime suspects, as is Jenny's ardent suitor Mark Peacock. Luke manages, with help from steadfast Sergeant Paddy Smith, to wrap up the case before Jennifer becomes victim number four, but it's close. A little heavy on the romance, most of it non-cloying, but this is a meaty, well. plotted, well-written story, laced with humor, warmth and sharply observed people.