An undertaker’s new wife is distracted from the family business by a local murder in the Cotswolds.
Just a year into her marriage to Drew Slocombe, former housesitter Thea has grown weary of his expectations about her helping to raise his two children, like the indignities of preparing meals or reading stories at bedtime, and misses her independence. Drew’s latest client in his work as an undertaker for nature-focused Peaceful Repose offers Thea a bit of the intrigue she’s been missing. Linda Biddulph has hired Drew to help with services for her recently departed husband, Stephen, though with the caveat that Drew is not to tell her son, Lawrence, a big secret she’s hiding. Apparently Linda is the second wife of Stephen, who has a first family complete with a wife and two sons, Clovis and Luc, who’ve been hidden from Lawrence his whole life. Linda promises to reveal the news of Stephen’s first sons after the funeral is done with and things are settled down, but this isn’t enough for Clovis and Luc, who have heard of their not-so-dearly departed dad and show up on Thea and Drew’s door demanding to be involved. Drew’s promise to Linda doesn’t make Thea feel that she’s obliged to follow his lead, and it doesn’t hurt that Clovis is easy on the eyes and could perhaps provide the intrigue that Drew is lacking. As the Biddulph family drama heats up, Thea’s attention is deflected by the murder of a young woman on the grounds of Peaceful Repose. Juliet Wilson, beloved by the village of Broad Campden community, had no enemies who would wish her ill, and local police are willing to draw again on the mystery-solving skills Thea’s already demonstrated (Peril in the Cotswolds, 2018) to help connect Juliet’s death to a plausible suspect.
Intentionally or not, Tope’s free-spirited heroine’s lack of interest in her new husband’s life and her responsibilities to her family diminish rather than encourage a reader's investment in her ability to solve the crime.