A second case for the C.I.D.'s tenacious, thoughtful Detective Superintendent Roper (Seascape With Dead Figures, 1987) brings him to tiny Cort Abbas, where the strangled corpse of sexy, saucy, young Vera Jackman has been found in a ditch by Wally Tupper, the village's harmless retardee. Vera's early pregnancy and surprising bank account are soon uncovered, and Roper, with staunch aide Dave Price and local Sergeant Jollyboy, begins his painstaking routine. Clues at the crime scene put the focus on Cort Place--a centuries-old stately mansion open to the public, owned and run, with iron hand, by elegant Jennifer Sutton, who also oversees, with painter brother Allan, its arts-and-crafts annex. Vera worked part-time in the complex's cafeteria and as an artist's model. In residence now are macho sculptor Bill Thruxton; his wispy blonde wife Susan: red-bearded cabinet-maker Lewis Huxley; aggressively unpleasant painter Carol Haldane; glassworkers Rachel and Adrian Dance; and Huxley's helper Michael Taunton, ex-Londoner and fish-out-of-water in this tightknit community. Then--as alibis, motives and timetables are being hashed and rehashed, to the point of tedium--Taunton's seeming suicide and confession bring matters to a screeching halt. Roper is not pleased. Instinct warns him off the tidy solution, and his doggedness pays off with an airtight case against a two-time murderer. Solid, well-crafted police procedural--long on precise, convincing detail; short on fireworks, but quietly absorbing for fans of the genre.