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by Rebecca Tope
Thomas Dunne, June 2003
343 pages
ISBN: 0312302606

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Dunsworthy Farm in Devon. Recording Day. Dierdre Watson is working with the farm owner, Gordon Hillcock, recording the yield of his herd of dairy cows. It's a tough time for British farmers. BSE has passed. TB is a threat, but hoof and mouth is still in the future. Perfectly healthy calves are killed because there is no market for them. The cost of milk production is constantly rising while the profits are constantly falling. The only thing keeping Dunsworthy going is the salaries that Claudia and Mary, Gordon's mother and sister bring in.

Dierdre is glad to be working with Gordon for a change because his herdsman, Sean O'Farrell, complains constantly and is cruel to the animals, punching them in the ribs or twisting their tails until they cry out in pain, when they don't respond to his commands quickly enough. Her laptop has packed in, so she is keeping the records by hand, but that's part of the job. Things otherwise are going smoothly until Hillcock goes for the last few cows, the ones slightly weaker than the bulk of the herd, kept in another barn. He returns to the milking barn without the cows but with a shocked expression on his face. Dierdre follows him to the adjacent barn and finds the Sean's bloody body lying there.

DS Den Cooper is the only one available to take the call. He's not DI Danny Hemsley's first choice. Lilah Beardon, of Redstone Farm, had jilted Den just three months earlier, and has taken up with Gordon. Hemsley warns Den to be extra careful on this case. The early stages of the investigation proceed. Den and Constable Mike Smithson interview Claudia and Mary, Gordon and Dierdre, and Heather O'Farrell, Sean's invalid wife.

We first met Den and Lilah in A DIRTY DEATH in which Lilah's father was found floating in a slurry pit, and then Den went on to solve the murder of a hunt saboteur in DEATH OF A FRIEND. This, the third in the series, is the most mainstream of all. Even though it takes place in rural Devon, as do the other two, it is the most mainstream of all. Tope really does write what she knows and it is obvious. Her other series features Drew Slocombe, and undertaker. Search out both of them. It's worth it.

Reviewed by Barbara Franchi, May 2003

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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