Her second outing packs Bea Abbott (False Charity, 2007) off to Bruges on the trail of an international art thief.
The Abbott Agency is a domestic agency, not a detective agency, widowed owner Bea Abbott insists. Still, she allows her old school friend Velma to cajole her into investigating her stepson, Philip, who seems to have gotten hold of a Millais portrait belonging to his godmother, Lady Lucinda Farne. Philip swears it’s a birthday gift, but Bea can’t ask Lady Farne, who got knocked down and killed when she interrupted a burglary. So Bea recruits her noisy assistant Maggie to move into Philip’s flat, where she shares a room with an equally vacuous young woman named Charlotte. Philip never shows up, but Liam and Zander, the two remaining roommates, persuade the smitten young things to take a romantic trip to Belgium. Suspecting that the “presents” Maggie and Charlotte carry across the border for their sneaky suitors are not the promised tins of shortbread, Bea drives to Bruges in time to see the luckless girls finally figure out that they’ve been stood up. But when a bouquet-brandishing thug named Herman offers to take Liam and Zander's place in Belgium, Bea puts her foot down, placing the three Englishwomen in peril abroad.
Plucky as she may be, Bea, lacking the inner dimension of Heley's long-running heroine Ellie Quicke, comes across as following the plot rather than driving it.