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by Anabel Donald
Pan Books, August 1999
325 pages
5.99 GBP
ISBN: 0330373730

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Alex Tanner is a part-time researcher for television documentaries and a part-time private investigator. A recently widowed woman brings her an envelope marked "Destroy Unopened" which contains letters indicating a long-term relationship between a woman and a married man. Hillary Lucas is afraid that man was her husband. They had no chldren, but the unknown woman had a son. Lucas asks that Alex try and find the woman. The last letter is intriguing. It has a reference to 10 Rillington Place, the home of Reginald Christie, a mass murderer who was finally caught and executed but not until after his innocent lodger was hanged for the crimes.

Alex lives in the Ladbrooke Grove end of Notting Hill. Not the fashionable bit (as of the writing of this book, since gentrification marches relentlessly street by street in Notting Hill) but the end near what was once known as Rillington Place. Tanner accepts the case, because there is apparently another Notting Hill killer, one who is killing small blonde women, and one of the letters suggests that the unknown woman may be the mother of the present day murderer.

In addition, the parents of a missing small blonde woman come to Alex to inquire whether Nick, Alex's assistant, has found their daughter. Tanner tries to fob them off, because Nick also seems to have gone missing. Her friend Polly comes back from the Far East to tell Alex that she will be selling her flat. Polly thinks that playing detective will be a lark, so she tries to help. With the help of Polly, Loony Lil, a street person, and the spotty youth next door, all cases do come to suitable conclusions, and all is well in Notting Hill again.

This is the best of the five "Notting Hill Mysteries" by Donald. Alex has to solve 2 cases, 3 if you include finding the missing Nick, and pacify the man who gives her most of her documentary research work because his wife has left him. The earlier titles in the series are An Uncommon Murder, In At the Deep End, The Glass Ceiling,and The Loop, They go back to 1992 and are well worth searching for. Not only is Alex Tanner a well drawn character, but the neighborhood has been undergoing yuppification in the past decade, and this series is a good way to remember the area as it was. Rillington Place was renamed many years ago and number 10 was torn down, partly during the search for bodies, but, as far as I know, that lot remains vacant to this day. Donald puts a building on the space and places her suspects in that building. Really spooky.

Reviewed by Barbara Franchi, March 2002

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