Compulsive cleaner Araminta Knox is convinced she’s being haunted by the ghost of her late fiancé Jock Lewis, even though nobody but her believes he really died in that Paddington train wreck. The one impediment to Zillah Leach’s forthcoming marriage of convenience to her childhood friend, gay MP James Melcombe-Smith, is that she never bothered to divorce her first husband, Jerry. Meanwhile, Fiona Harrington looks forward to a blissful life together with Jeff Leigh, the boyfriend her friends Matthew and Michelle Jarvey can’t stand. What these women all have in common is not only an unsuitable man, but the same unsuitable man—and peerless con artist Jeffrey Leach has had his way with plenty of other unsuspecting females too. On an afternoon just like any other, one of the women he’s left behind catches up with him in a dark cinema, and life promptly spirals out of control for his victims. Fiona mourns him with a passionate intensity that would better suit a wife of 20 years. Zillah and her MP, both frantic to keep their dirty linen hidden, come under suspicion of murder. As for Minty Knox, she’s now so convinced she’s hearing the voice of Jock’s mother that she’s begun to answer her back.
The results, if they lack the unforgivingly logical momentum that used to be a signature of Rendell (Piranha to Scurfy, 2001, etc.), provide all the other hallmarks—the patient social observation, the cruelly ironic humor, and the sense of having penetrated to the unlovely core of several unforgettable characters—you’d expect from this master of psychological suspense.