An unscrupulous developer and his family threaten a middle-aged newlywed’s connubial bliss.
Life seems to have come around for Ellie Quicke (Murder in the Park, 2008, etc.). After years of widowhood, she’s married Thomas, her former pastor. Although she mourns her Aunt Drusilla’s recent death, she’s moved comfortably into Drusilla’s big house and begun managing the charitable trust the rest of her inheritance has funded. When Thomas fills in for a friend at Sunday service, he discovers a young refugee in the church: Ursula Bolton, who won’t leave until Ellie promises to look into the fate of her friends Lloyd, who fell from the top story of Prior’s Place, a posh new development, and Mia, who disappeared soon after. Mia’s family, the Priors who built Prior’s Place, insist that she’s a tramp who probably ran off with her latest crush. But Ursula maintains that Mia was a virgin who must have been kidnapped. As the recession takes its toll on the housing market, the Priors not only thwart Ellie’s attempts to find Mia but try to bully Ellie’s architect cousin Roy into investing their tottering empire. Threats eventually give way to violence. Ursula’s mother is beaten; Ellie’s realtor daughter Diana is punched out while showing a house; and next-door neighbor Armand gets a poke in the nose from a young Prior, who is thrashed in turn. Until Ellie can persuade a reluctant police force to act, everyone she loves is in danger.
Standard fare from an author whose puzzles take a back seat to domestic affairs.