Rolling-stone healer Jude Nicholls’ reunion with her old friend Megan Sinclair’s ex-husband runs into several problems, not the least of them his murder.
Since Jude last saw Albert Sinclair 20 years ago, he’s reinvented himself as Burton St Clair, and his latest novel, Stray Leaves in Autumn, has achieved the critical and commercial success that had repeatedly eluded him in the past. When he invites Jude to attend his talk and book signing at the Fethering Library, she willingly accepts. Several other guests, who seem less than taken with St Clair, ply him with unwelcome and variously hostile questions in Brett’s archest manner, and the evening is further spoiled when St Clair clumsily comes on to Jude as they leave. Awkward as the event is, it’s only a prelude to the deeper travails that begin when DI Rollins and DS Knight turn up on Jude’s doorstep the next morning to inform her that St Clair has been found dead and that, as the last person known to have seen him alive, she’s very much a person of interest. That interest becomes even more pointed when St Clair’s death is attributed to contact with the walnuts he was allergic to and Megan informs Rollins and Knight that her marriage was broken up by St Clair’s affair with Jude—an affair Jude can only insist never happened. With the weight of the evidence against her, Jude naturally turns for help to her neighbor Carole Seddon, who’s partnered with her in solving several earlier murders (The Killing in the Café, 2016, etc.) and looks forward with undisguised gusto to tackling this case, which Rollins and Knight continue to insist doesn’t quite rise to the level of a case at all.
An unabashed reincarnation of golden-age plotting and decorum, right down to the deliciously overwrought detective novel Brett imagines and quotes as having inspired the killer’s nefarious schemes.