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THE STING OF DEATH by Rebecca Tope

THE STING OF DEATH

By Rebecca Tope

Pub Date: Aug. 31st, 2004
ISBN: 0-312-31655-0
Publisher: Dunne/Minotaur

Drew Slocombe, proprietor of England’s only naturopathic burial grounds, and his assistant Maggs outguess local copper Den Cooper in a case nobody seems particularly interested in.

When Penn, a distant relative of Drew’s wife, asks him to look into the disappearance of her cousin, it’s unclear whether sly, troubled Justine did more than skip a lunch date. Her landlord, farmer Philip Renton, still devastated by losing his cattle to disease, insists she took Georgia, his three-year-old, camping. But that’s not what his wife thinks. It’s not what autocratic Roma Millan, the estranged mum who hasn’t set eyes on Justine in five years, thinks. And it’s certainly not what Penn, who’s scampered to Bournemouth to solace Roma over the illness of Laurie, her second husband, thinks. Then Justine turns up, insisting Penn abducted her and she only narrowly escaped, and Roma finds Georgia’s body on the Renton property. Cooper is less interested in sorting out who’s lying than in quitting the force and canoodling with Maggs. And undertaker Drew is busy with two burials. Before Penn can explain her part in all this, she’s murdered too. Soon more than one marriage is in trouble, two women are exposed as unsatisfactory mums, and just about everyone involved manifests as world-class dysfunctional.

Inventive lies and complex relationships lift the plot above average, though few readers will accept the reasons Tope (A Death to Record, 2003, etc.) offers why her amateur sleuths should be involved in murder.