When retired professor Basil Bauer, at the ripe age of 72, decides to remarry, his former colleagues and current co-inhabitants in the residential community are somewhat dismayed for two reasons: his choice of bride—Virginia, a graduate student a quarter-century younger—and the unresolved matter of his first wife's disappearance 30 years before. Egidio Manfredi, only one year away from retirement himself with the Fort Elbow, Ohio, police force, is called on to discover what happened to Lilian Bauer, a free-spirited poet, who decamped leaving only a noncommittal sentence or two for Basil. Bauer's squabbling adult children, Phyllis and Gregory, are more agitated about the incipient second wife than their mother's long-ago demise. Then Virginia, who had been angling to write the authorized biography of Lilian's life, disappears, and Manfredi and his assistant Noonan are further perplexed when two of Bauer's good friends confess separately to killing Lilian. When the cops check out Ambrose Hennessy's version, the body in the grave turns out to be not Lilian, but Virginia. Or is it? Manfredi sorts through the identity mishap, Bauer and Hennessy recall another young woman's death deep in their past, and an unlikely suspect pops up to account for at least part of the current troubles.
An interesting concept—the endurance of personal responsibility—floundering in talk, talk, talk. New series sleuth Manfredi is more world-weary than the author's Father Dowling, less wry than his Andrew Broom, but McInerny fans will line up for him anyway.