An ex-detective resumes sleuthing in the grisly death of a childhood friend.
Even Maj. Norman Horrocks, retired veteran of many wars, is shocked when he and his dog find a mutilated, castrated body hidden by a blackthorn hedge on a country lane. Alexandra Quick, detective-turned–art anthologist, is devastated: the dead man is Tristan Huber, a successful interior designer with whom she grew up. The worst is finding out that he lived in agony for two or three days after having been tortured and having “cheat” carved into his chest. Dimsie Drayton, his sister, begs for help from Alex, once the youngest DCI in England. Then the body of a research fellow at the local university turns up at the foot of an oceanside cliff. He too was tortured and left to die, with only “L-I” carved on him—for liar? Trying to connect the two murders, Alex interviews as many of Tristan’s clients as she can find, including the owners of a family resort that may not be quite as innocent as it seems. Many more clients have moved or have disconnected telephone numbers or perhaps don’t even exist. In the midst of her despondency over her husband’s desertion and her heartbreak over her lost friend, who may have been even more lost to her than she thought, Alex is roped into a master class with the star of Spend a Penny, a sitcom about a seaside public toilet. Alex’s parents’ eccentricities—they named her Frideswide and her sister Ethelburga—and Maj. Horrocks’ failed attempts at topiary provide whimsical distractions from the serious business of sorting out multiple murders. Too bad Alex belies her name; she’s anything but quick when it comes to figuring out what’s being practically shouted at her.
Moody (Quick and the Dead, 2016, etc.), who can’t seem to make up her mind whether to be cozy or gritty, alternates actual wit with adolescent jokes and a parade of sliced-and-diced corpses.