Finally, a mystery that dares to ask which is harder: losing your girl or pretending to be sorry when her new lover becomes the prime suspect in a murder case.
Den Cooper, a copper at rural England’s temporarily understaffed Okehampton Police Station (A Dirty Death, 2000, etc.), is convinced dairyman Gordon Hillcock, owner of Dunsworthy Farm, took time off from his milking chores to shove a pitchfork into widely disliked farmhand Sean O’Farrell. But Den is hardly impartial. Lilah Beardon, his fiancée, has recently thrown him over for Hillcock, and she’s determined to cast blame on just about anybody else, from milk recorder Deirdre Watson, who was officially assessing the dairy output when O’Farrell died, to the youthful animal-rights activists who loathed his cruelty to dogs, badgers, and cows, to his malingering, sexually ignored wife Heather, to a couple of blokes, one of them underage, whom he may have been seducing. When his superior insists he consider these other suspects, Cooper becomes enmeshed in cow disease, farm bankruptcies, illegal dog fights, badger-hunting—and family secrets that may have provided Hillcock with a motive to murder in the form of the reason O’Farrell’s daughter Abigail so closely resembles Hillcock and the outcome of Hillcock’s long-ago bout with chemotherapy.
The abrupt wrap-up is a stretch, but dairy life is rendered so faithfully you can smell the cow pats.