Normally the Yorkshire villagers would shun the likes of former actress Caroline Fawley, but the lover who’s set her up in Alderley, a charming stately home, and visited her on weekends is super-rich supermarket tycoon Marius Fleetwood. So she’s even asked to host the annual fête. At her mantrap daughter Olivia’s Leeds operatic debut in La Forza del Destino, Caroline awaits in vain for Marius to join her for the curtain call. All too soon, the coppers discover his body between the theater and the tawdry Crescent Hotel. Caroline, who believed Marius to be devoted to her despite his many previous mistresses and his live-in accommodation with his wife, is devastated to learn that he might have been unfaithful and, even worse, that he’d paid for only two more months rent on Alderley. Investigating DS Charlie Peace (The Bones in the Attic, 2002, etc.) finds no lack of suspects, including one of Caroline’s former husbands, impoverished musicale singer Rick Radshaw; Caroline’s youngsters Stella and Alexander, and Marius’s son Guy, all lukewarm about Dad’s relationship, all gadding about Leeds that night; the ubiquitous Pete Bagshaw, one of Marius’s unacknowledged by-blows; and assorted business rivals, village moralists, and even Marius’s wife, now pregnant, so he’d claimed, with another man’s child. But it’s not until Peace breaks down La Forza scene by scene and prop by prop that the real murderer, motive, and method are revealed.
A treat for fans of opera, English country houses, and women of a certain age with the knack for rebounding. If not quite Barnard at his best, close enough.