A widow has her hands full coping with her family’s unending demands and solving friends’ puzzles.
When her neighbor asks for help finding out who poisoned Sir Arthur Kingsley’s dog, Ellie Quicke (Murder in the Garden, 2005, etc.) is puzzled why a capable woman who does business with “the City” would turn to an Ealing housewife for help. But Kate insists that her boss Gwyn will have no one else, so she and Kate visit the surly developer, who promptly throws them out. Chris Talbot, another City player, begs Ellie to persist, if only to befriend his daughter Felicity, Sir Arthur’s downtrodden wife. But Ellie’s role in this drama becomes more complex when she learns that Sir Arthur is the profiteer who intends to ravage her parish’s vicarage, harvesting six luxury flats and leaving a pitiful parcel for the parson. Worse, her cousin Roy is the project’s architect, bound by a verbal agreement to invest money he clearly doesn’t have in the venture. Worse still, her daughter Diana, also short on funds, hits mother up for a loan, and when she’s unsuccessful, usurps Felicity’s place in Sir Arthur’s bed to get bankrolled. All these obligations leave Ellie scant time to serve coffee at her church’s Autumn Fair, earning her the eternal wrath of Jean, who’s in charge of refreshments.
It’s hard to find the mystery, much less solve it, in this messy sixth from the usually reliable Heley.