A century and a world away from the stately intrigue of A Mansion and Its Murder (see Bastable, below), Barnard returns to contemporary Leeds for the memorably downscale story of the Centre, a temporary hostel for homeless young people. Ben Marchant, who opened the Centre after winning the lottery, allows his charges to remain only a fortnight--all except for Alan Coughlan and Katy Bourne, two fellow-students who’d barely heard of each other till they ran away together, and who are now ensconced in the Centre indefinitely. But Alan and Katy’s unusual status doesn’t bother black copper Charlie Peace as much as the possibility that the Centre may be no refuge from the violence of the streets. The first sign of trouble arrives with Mehjabean (“Midge”) Haldalwa, a refugee from an arranged marriage, whose father turns up at the Centre, just in time to be witnessed by witless City Council candidate Alicia Ingram, to insist that he would never force such a marriage on his beautiful daughter and to frighten everyone in the Centre. The sequel is inevitable: Someone returns to the Centre in a murderous attack on both Midge (who suffers a superficial wound) and Ben (who’s lying near death). Given the number of parents and neighbors and meddlers like Mrs. Ingram who have something against the Centre, how can Charlie Peace and Chief Inspector Mike Oddie spot the culprit? Dextrously understated, with a mystery whose twists and turns will surprise only readers who aren’t familiar with Barnard’s line in civilized malice.