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When the numbingly boring after-dinner speaker at the Scarpington Artisan's Lodge annual bash collapses and dies mid-drone, Simon Bognor of the Board of Trade--on site to produce a memorandum on Middle England's ""thrift and graft""--discovers murder, motives and suspects galore. Among them are: Piggy the Earl, fending off a blackmailer; Puce the M.P., overeager to get his hand on the dead man's laundry business; and Brown, of the dairy-farm Browns, lusting after the Lodge presidency. There's also Moulton the brewer, who had access to chemicals and shady acquaintances. Lumbering from one jokey British stereotype to another and egged on by the undercover detective (or is he?) Osbert Wartnaby, Bognor discovers that the Artisans' bridge afternoons are devoted to sexual rather than card finesse. There will be another death, a huffy exit by wife Monica (disgruntled at Bognor's sauna interlude with a Countess), and an untenable plot twist before Bognor latches on to the murderer, reunites with Monica, and goes home. Arch satire (cf. Brought to Book, Red Herrings, etc.) and a mite too British for all but the most fervent Anglophile. Heald needs to temper his campy wit with a less nonsensical plot.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1990
Publisher: Doubleday