Another of Barnard’s (The Habit of Widowhood, etc.) imaginative forays into murder and its ramifications. This time, the victim has been found garrotted and nearly naked in the trunk of a car parked behind an Indian eatery in the village of Haworth. Black Detective Charles Peace and his boss Mike Oddie, of West Yorkshire’s CID, think they’ve identified the corpse—young Irishman Declan O’Hearn, who, after struggling to make a living as a street troubadour, had taken a job in the tiny nearby artist’s colony of Ashworth. In the colony’s main house live famed, aged painter Ranulph Byatt, his haughty wife Melanie, their daughter Martha Mates, and her truculent son Stephen, along with part-time cook Mrs. Max. Declan’s job was to help the irascible Ranulph with dressing, moving about, and with some of the physical requirements of the painting process. One night months later, Declan moved out, leaving a farewell note. Not until Charlie and Mike bring Declan’s mother from Ireland to identify the body do they discover the dead man’s true identity. It takes endless questioning of the denizens of the big house and the oddballs living in the little cottages edging the great man’s quarters, along with a close study of Ranulph’s mildly uneven oeuvre, before the grim lines of a cruel plot begin to emerge. The characters are intriguingly off-beat and the scenario is beyond bizarre, yet never quite beyond belief. Suspense seldom flags in a steadily absorbing story.