Hitchcock Sewell, that bon vivant among undertakers, steps again, though less compellingly, into a breach created by police ineptitude, this time on behalf of a winsome, waiflike, mysteriously missing nanny: sweet Sophie Pitts, so innocent and inoffensive you’d think she’d be scoundrel-proof. Wrong. A wicked someone, having first seduced her, shoves her off the Naval Academy Bridge into the Severn River. Predictably, the feckless Annapolis PD pegs her death a suicide, but the determined demurral of Sophie’s grieving mom makes it a case for the half-owner of Sewell and Sons Family Funeral Home. To complicate matters, Sophie’s last employer was Libby Gellman, briefly Hitchcock’s lover, while her jealous, philandering, snake-in-the-grass husband impresses Hitch as an excellent candidate for scoundrel of choice—at least for a time. Digging further, handsome Hitch has as usual the help of a bevy of Baltimore beauties who seem not to mind that over the course of four books (The Hearse Case Scenario, 2002, etc.) he’s crossed the line from agreeably pun-prone to compulsively glib. When the dark doings of crooked Crawford Larue, the ex-con ex-governor of Kentucky, and his drastically misnamed Alliance of Reason and Kindness come to light, Hitch is halfway home, though the other half is an obstacle course of corpses, one of which will find its final rest in a Sewell and Sons casket.
A successful series hits a snag. This time out, the mortician/sleuth is unconvincing as a mortician and a stiff as a sleuth.