The enigmatic “Albert Campion” is invited to a remarkable art showing by the widow of painter John Sebastian Lafcadio. This is the eighth of twelve scheduled events to exhibit a set of posthumous works left by the temperamental artist with explicit instructions about the annual showing of the painting, one at a time. But the carefully choreographed event goes seriously awry when the lights go out. When they are restored one of the attendees is found stabbed.
Albert Campion is noted for his ability to solve puzzling crimes. He is also known to be mild-mannered and inoffensive to a remarkable extent. Therefore, it is shocking for those of us who know Albert when he becomes really angry in this story. The question here, you see, is not the identity of the murderer. The exasperating challenge here is to prove what is already known.
For Albert does know, early on, who is behind the murder. Indeed, the murderer knows that he knows, and taunts him expertly and incessantly with high good humor. After all Albert’s efforts go unrewarded, there is a startling and surprising resolution.
Once again, Allingham’s ability to create fascinating characters and intriguing situations makes for a tour de force of the writer’s art.
My thanks to Camilla of the Margery Allingham Estate for making an advance copy of this book available for me to read and review.
Eleanor Blackwood is a young woman struggling with a traumatic past. On the 18th anniversary of her own mother’s murder, an event witnessed by six-year-old Ellie, she decides to challenge her gremlins by taking a run through the very woods that were the site of her mother’s death. She is not prepared for what she finds on her run: a naked dead woman in the woods, with the number 3 written on her forehead with black marker. She can barely believe her own eyes. In a panic, she runs from the scene, scraping herself badly during the hectic one through the nettle-filled woodland trail.
It gets worse. When Eleanor reports her experience, she is received skeptically by the police, who nevertheless search for the body in the woods, and fail to find one. At that point, reactions vary: the police, knowing her history, think she is either suffering hallucinations or an overactive imagination. Her father is angry, accusing her of attention-seeking behavior. Her employers at the local school think she should take a leave from teaching. Even Eleanor begins to doubt what she has seen, or not seen. She has been through years of therapy, and indeed is currently seeing a hypnotherapist, Dr. Quick.
This is a riveting first-person story that offers flashback scenes interspersed with current events. We, the reader, aren’t sure about Eleanor’s mental health, either. But when events become even more complex, we increasingly feel there is a malevolent force behind what we are seeing through Eleanor’s eyes, and like her, we are hard pressed to recognize who is friend and who is foe. I found it hard to put this book down, and read long chunks at a time. The author has done a masterful job of telling a difficult tale.
My thanks to author, publisher, and NetGalley for making an advance copy available for me to read and review.
Author Paul adeptly sets the stage for this book in the opening sentence, when Irene finds a dead woman in her closet.
OK, we’re hooked, and want to learn more. We find that Irene was until recently an assistant DA in Manhattan who was lured/coerced into returning to her hometown of Santa Fe, New Mexico by her mother, the still-glamorous Adele. The daughter-mother connection has been somewhat distant, with Adelle spending her years with a series of husbands after the death of her first husband, Irene’s father. But now, at age seventy, Adelle’s luck has run out and she turns to her only daughter for help.
After some amount of discussion, Irene finally and reluctantly agrees to leave her New York life and come to Santa Fe. The plan is that Irene will open a consignment shop selling gently worn haute couture.
But Irene’s first day of business is complicated by the unsettling discovery in her closet. She meets the Santa Fe police chief, acquires a young but very capable assistant, Angel, and soon encounters a pushy local attorney, Peter James [AKA PJ] Baily, who takes an interest in Irene’s circumstances rather against Irene’s wishes.
This is a cleverly told tale that keeps us guessing through the many turns and twists encountered by a persistent Irene and a reluctant Adele. As it turns out, Irene is hard pressed to know whom she can trust, and who is part of the problem, and indeed just what the problem is.
My thanks to author, publisher, and NetGalley for making an advance copy of this book available for me to read and review.
Welcome to my new improved (I hope) blog site. It was a struggle to move content from old site to new, and not everything transferred to the new site. I haven’t figured out how to format pages to my satisfaction, but I’m working on it. So please, bear with me if this site does not seem quite what it should be. I’m really hoping it will improve–SOON.