Cotswold Manners: An English Countryside Mystery

Michael Spicer, Author St. Martin's Press $14.95 (182p) ISBN 978-0-312-02562-5
Using the hoary device of the English country house weekend, Spicer, British M.P., cabinet minister and first-time novelist, pulls off the first half of this improbable murder mystery with aplomb by means of a dryly witty, highly readable style. But the story loses its way in the second half, becoming increasingly befuddled and unconvincing as Spicer embroils it, tangentially, in international politics, as elaborately introduced characters fade out and as the denouement fails to satisfy. The ``Miss Marple'' of the tale is diminutive, pretty, blonde young Lady Jane Hildreth, who has turned to sleuthing for the British government since her divorce from wealthy aristocrat Lord John Hildreth. When a dashing Argentinian lady-killer, a past lover of Lady Jane's, dies under suspicious circumstances while playing polo for Lord John's team, the latter invites his ex-wife to his grand country seat, Greysham Park, to solve the mystery. Also on hand are a thoroughly unpleasant band of the idle rich, and sundry friends of Hildreth's whom he considers suspects, characterized vividly with an admixture of designer-decorator details and sexual titillation. Though flawed, Spicer's first attempt has its mesmerizing moments, and shows promise of more practiced future efforts. (July)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1989
Release date: 01/01/1989
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