In a volatile world, Inspector Enrique Alvarez (Seeing is Deceiving, p. 619, etc.) offers the comforts of certitude. Chief Salas still ridicules and hangs up on him; his sister Dolores still browbeats him about his drinking and tries unsuccessfully to find him a suitable wife; and his Mallorcan bailiwick is still breathtakingly beautiful. As to this season’s mystery: The motor cruiser Valhalla, belonging to wealthy former British cabinet minister Keith Vickers, is found drifting off the coast, its womanizing owner now separated as completely from his craft as from his wife Laura. Rosa, Vickers’s housekeeper, reports a recent heated argument between her boss and one Señor Lovell, identified only as an “important member of the British government” (a vague, endlessly repeated description that becomes a comic mantra). Lovell brushes off Alvarez’s questions as unimportant and undeserving of his time, and his advisor and constant companion Esme Dale tries to bully the inspector—a good cop/bad cop routine that only makes Alvarez more suspicious. When Vickers’s body finally washes up onshore with clear evidence of murder, Alvarez plies Lovell with more questions despite tantrums and arguments from Salas, escalating threats from Dale, and the inspector’s interest in other suspects ranging from beautiful redhead Melanie Lockwood (whom Vickers had been doggedly pursuing with little success), indifferent Laura and her local lover Serra, and the handful of servants on the minister’s estate, who run the gamut from sullen to sanguine.
As usual, Alvarez’s charm overshadows the mystery, and his duels with series regulars are the real rewards.