The author's scalpel-sharp eye and ear for the hypocritical and absurd (A Little Local Murder, etc.) find a mother lode in this tale of a by-election in Yorkshire's Bootham East, for a seat recently held by Member of Parliament James Partridge, drowned in the Thames. As Conservative, Social Democrat and Labor candidates go through their paces in lower-class, depressed and depressing Bootham, about-to-retire Superintendent Sutcliffe of Scotland Yard embarks on a low-key, one-man investigation of Partridge's death, unconvinced by theories of suicide or accident. He discovers that ungrieving, arrogant widow Penelope is mildly involved in an affair with Conservative candidate Antony Craybourne-Fisk (whose attempt to involve his ex-actress Yorkshire grandmother in his campaign--after confirming that she's still alive--is one of the story's funnier bits). And it turns out that Social Democrat Oliver Worthing, an indecisive academic, has a skeleton or two to hide and so does Labor's Jerry Snaithe--his upper-class beginnings, for one. At the close, Sutcliffe finds his murderer, in a solution that carries conviction if not immediate justice. Not everyone's cup of tea--but Barnard's wit and savvy make the sometimes sluggish trip through labyrinthine British politics worthwhile.