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by Clare Curzon
Thomas Dunne Books, November 2006
256 pages
ISBN: 0312349637

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Alyson Orne is a nurse working two jobs, one at a hospital and the other taking care of a 94-year-old woman who happens to be a distant relative. Emily Withers is a frail woman with a tenuous hold on reality, but Alyson takes good care of her, with the help of Sheena Judd, a somewhat unreliable care assistant. Sgt Rosemary Zycynski, while visiting a 13-year-old runaway on Alyson's ward, becomes friendly with the nurse.

Sheena meets Oliver Markham, a police court usher, at a bar she frequents. She really fancies the Filipino barman, Ramon, but thinks that if she shows interest in Oliver, then Ramon will take notice. She invites Ramon up to Emily's penthouse for tea, but a visitor thinks that Ramon is the caregiver and gives a good report about him to Alyson, who promptly hires him for a one-off job so she can go out one evening.

Ramon arrives at the flat and finds no one there but the window open. He looks out and sees a body in a secluded bit of yard of the adjoining commercial building. He closes the window, wipes off the blood, and goes about his business.

Sheena has disappeared, so Alyson hires Ramon away from the bar. He is legal and was raised by doctors in the Philippines. He is also very gentle and patient with the old lady, even getting her to speak occasionally. Alyson is very happy with her choice,

In the meantime, Rachel Howard, Emily's estranged granddaughter comes to see her granny, while an insurance appraiser is in the flat. Sheena disappears and it turns out that Rachel has also disappeared.

Meanwhile, Supt Mike Yeadings and his sergeant, Rosemary Zycynski of the Thames Valley police force find a body in the river. Identity is difficult. They also find a bloodstained rug in the boot of Oliver's car, and Yeadings' neighbor's wife, Audrey Stanford, wife of Dr Keith Stanford, Emily's GP, finally succeeds in committing suicide.

There is a lot happening in the Thames Valley, but Yeadings and Z are up for the challenge. If you can imagine an old fashioned classic British mystery as a police procedural, this is it.

Reviewed by Barbara Franchi, December 2006

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