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by Jill McGown
Ballantine, February 2002
296 pages
ISBN: 0345443144

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Detective Chief Inspector Lloyd and Judy Hill have been involved for a long time. As the book opens, Judy Hill is 8 months pregnant, and Lloyd is struggling to show that he's not a fossil but rather will be a new-age father to their child, which was not the case with his first family where he had a more traditional relationship with his wife. Judy is being rather cranky, so Lloyd is anxiously trying to please her when he decides to go along to a rehearsal of her amateur theater group which is about to present Cinderella. During the rehearsal, one of the cast members, Dr. Carl Bignall, receives some bad news. His home has been broken into and his wife, Estelle, killed.

Lloyd is called to the scene of the crime. Working with Detective Sergeant Tom Finch, they sort through a mass of iron-clad alibis and suspicious behavior on the part of some of the witnesses. Why is Eric Watson, the Bignall's next-door neighbor and former cop, so unwilling to talk about what he saw? How did Ryan Chester, son of the Bignall's cleaning lady end up with a sack of their Christmas presents taken from the scene which he was selling to his contacts? And then there's his younger brother, Dexter, who was seen running away from the scene of the crime. Could Estelle have taken on a lover who ended up killing her?

Everyone has a convincing story to tell and seems perfectly innocent. Finch and Lloyd puzzle over the timing of the crime. There's about a 45-minute window where most of the activity took place. They test theory after theory (which did feel rather redundant after a while), each time running into some niggling detail or another that proves them wrong. They almost get it right several times, only to find that they've made an incorrect assumption. Finally, they find the truth.

I haven't read the previous books in this series, but I gather that generally Lloyd partners up with Judy Hill in the investigations. He comes up with all sorts of wild ideas about what happened, and Judy applies logic to bring his theories closer to reality. In this book, she is working from home since she is 8 months pregnant and is only tangentially involved in anything to do with the crime.

The book is pretty much a standard police procedural. The plot was nicely complex, and the characterization well done. In one respect I didn't feel McGown played fair in that she let you in on what the characters were thinking in their own minds, and those thoughts were often misleading if you took them literally. There was a nice variety of suspicious characters, making it just difficult enough to figure out who was the killer.

Reviewed by Maddy Van Hertbruggen, June 2003

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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