DEATH BY SHEER TORTURE by Robert Barnard
Kirkus Star

DEATH BY SHEER TORTURE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Sheer delight. Inspector Perry (nÉ Peregrine) Trethowan of the C.I.D., who broke with his dotty family years ago, very reluctantly returns to the family seat--Harpenden House--when he's ordered to help solve the murder of his despised father Leo. And the mode of the murder adds embarrassment to Perry's general discomfiture: Leo, you see, was literally cut down while in the midst of a solo sadomaschistic exercise involving a pair of pink spangled tights! Not surprisingly, then, Perry finds the rest of the family in truly foul form. His sister Cristobel is pregnant, unwed, and unhelpful. Aunt Sybilla, a minor has-been setdesigner, is now pursuing media celebrity via self-conscious kookiness. Aunt Kate presides over her collection of SS memorabilia, souvenirs of her undying Mitfordesque crush on Adolf H. Cousin Peter, the heir presumptive, occupies one wing of the vast, ugly pile, along with his shrewish wife and a brood of obnoxious children. Wheelchair-bound Uncle Lawrence isn't quite as senile as he appears. And the whole crowd is singularly unmoved by unlovable Leo's death: they're more interested in finding out who's been stealing the family paintings. So Perry must sleuth without much assistance--while, along the way, he uncovers a secret that forces him to reconsider his passionately nurtured distancing from family roots. Wickedly comical yet somehow also tender: an oddly Dickensian modern mystery (thanks to Perry's wry, warm narration) and perhaps the best work yet from a new grand-master who, never repeating himself, comes up with a slightly different sort of winner each time out.

Pub Date: March 30th, 1982
Publisher: Scribners