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by Veronica Stallwood
Headline, February 2002
292 pages
5.99 GBP
ISBN: 0747268452

Kate Ivory is returning from a vacation on the continent when she sees a very odd looking man wearing a wig ahead of her in line. She quits worrying about him because she is moving back into her house in Oxford after the termination of an affair with George Dolby.

Her mother has been living there. She discovers she has new neighbors on either side. The Fishers are busybodies. They invite her over the first night she is home and begin planning her social life for her. The other neighbor is Jeremy Wells who seems to be somewhat reclusive.

Kate is a novelist and the next day she begins work on her novel. The Fishers are so noisy through their shared wall that she puts on earplugs and earphones and writes in silence (except for faint music). Thus she does not know until she stops that someone has murdered the Fishers in their garden. Then Jeremy calls and gets Kate involved in intrigue and danger and possibly even death.

Oxford is fairly well described in this book and I get a genuine sense of the place and the people of the city. Kate is, however, not really a three-dimensional a character. She reacts in obvious ways although she is a bit of a prig at times. The other characters are decidedly two-dimensional and stereotypical in their reactions.

There is little detecting. One assumes the police are working offstage, but Kate has no reason to delve into the murder and intrigue until there is another murder and she is perhaps threatened as well. Then she does what a good citizen should do and hands all her information over to the police which is law-abiding, but doesn't make for a very good story.

The ending as a result falls flat and is rather predictable. It does not live up to the promise of the book and the tantalizing clues early on. And Stallwood switches points-of-view. If she did this on a regular basis it would work, but she doesn't. Three or four times during the book (which is almost entirely from Kate's point-of-view), we suddenly jump to Jeremy or the master criminal or someone else. This is disconcerting and pulls me out of the story every time it happens.

All in all, I was hoping to like this book better than I did. I love Oxford and enjoy books set in that town and was hoping to reenact my visit last year. It didn't happen.

Reviewed by Sally A. Fellows, March 2003

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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