The return of a prodigal thought dead.
Nothing upsets mourners more than the appearance of a relative whose decease they’ve long assumed. But Merlyn Docherty, last seen 22 years ago when he supposedly departed for an ignominious death in India, has returned to pay his respects to his late aunt Clarissa Cantelo, who nurtured him after his mum died and his dad took to the pubs. But is it really Merlyn? Yes, say DNA tests that anoint him Clarissa’s heir, with a nice Victorian house and a modest few pounds due him. It seems little enough motive for murder. But someone drills a hole in his brake line, killing the unlucky teenager who swiped the car for a joyride. Detective Superintendent Charlie Peace, Leeds CID, is on the case, but it’s up to Merlyn to deal with all the squabbling Cantelos, who’d all go to their deaths rather than reveal the pact they made around the time the first Merlyn, the family patriarch, died following a senile descent into satyriasis. As the clairvoyant Clarissa predicted before she sent the younger Merlyn away, the Cantelos were unkind to men named Merlyn. Will he be able to pierce the secret Cantelo cabal? Certainly not before several U-turns in the plot.
Be warned: the Cantelo clan lacks not only humor and charm but also common decency. Still, the plotting of wily Barnard (A Cry from the Dark, 2004, etc.) is an undeniable pleasure.