Date of Publication: 1996, St. Martin’s/Minotaur
Number of Pages: 387
Synopsis (from back cover): When bored young housewife Simone Hollingsworth misses bell-ringing practice – her latest effort to find something to do – no one is surprised. In fact, if old Mrs. Molfrey, her neighbor, didn’t report is to Detective Chief Inspector Barnaby, Simone’s disappearance might have gone unrecorded in Fawcett Green. But even Barnaby isn’t concerned – until a body is found.
Soon Barnaby is uncovering the passionate entanglements beneath the placid surface of Fawcett Green – and perhaps jeopardizing his career. Now, if he misconstrues the clue buried in Simone’s garden – and a subtlety of human behavior his experienced eye should spot – a brutal killer may go free…
Review: This is, I believe Caroline Graham’s fourth Chief Inspector Barnaby story (my review of her first can be found here), and I definitely think she has improved with time. The characters of Inspector Barnaby and his ultra-macho sidekick, Detective Sergeant Troy, are much better developed (if not a tad less likable) and the story has a much smoother flow. I knew how the story ended, having seen the Midsomer Murders adaptation multiple times, or so I thought. This book is full of subtleties, not only of human behavior, but also in the way the characters think and in the way the action is described. This is definitely a book that “shows” rather than “tells”. It was a great joy to read, and being a huge fan of the Midsomer Murders series, I am relieved to finally find a Chief Inspector Barnaby story that I enjoy.
Both Barnaby and Troy are complex men, each in their own ways. Barnaby is a rule-breaker, an experienced detective who wears a million hats, from “favorite uncle” to the man no one wants to cross, all the while not caring one bit what people think of him. Troy, an alpha-male who thinks nothing of trying to get it on with any attractive woman who isn’t his wife, believes that tact is one thing that doesn’t belong anywhere near a crime scene. He is the character who is the hardest for me to like, especially given that I adore the Gavin Troy portrayed by Daniel Casey on Midsomer Murders. But being now privy to the inside machinations of his mind, I can also feel sympathy for him. They are a unique team, without whom, no crime in Midsomer County would ever be fully solved. I am definitely going to read the rest of the series!