First in a projected series of detective stories to be set in country inns (""Philip Owen"" is a pseudonym for veteran Judson Philips), presumably meant to parallel and publicize Berkshire Traveller Press' Country Inns and Back Roads guidebook. Here, the Red Cardinal Inn is home to Martha Walton, 94, mistress for 45 years to Wilfred Krider, the late (five years ago), all-powerful head of Krider Industries. Martha is looked after by the hotel-owner and his man-of-all-work, but chiefly by ex-cop Dan Burton--who, along with the local police captain, tries to make sense of the chaos when the peaceful hotel is thrown into turmoil by a corpse in the swimming pool, a series of ransacked rooms, a fake kidnapping, and a second murder. . . all seemingly connected to Krider Industries. The solution, however, is a surprise having nothing to do with their powers of detection. Workmanlike plotting, lots of padding, but little of the charm attributed to the locale.