Rotten Apples

Natasha Cooper, Author St. Martin's Press $21.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-312-13161-6
In her fifth appearance (after Festering Lillies), London's Willow King-civil servant by day; romance writer by night; sleuth by necessity-takes on both death and taxes. The late Fiona Fydgett, an art dealer, was driven to suicide, according to her sister, by an overzealous Inland Revenue agent. Willow, who lives like the pampered heroines of her novels, is asked by the squeaky-clean Minister for Rights and Charters to help investigate possible agency abuse. Whether sketching Willow's mysterious housekeeper, Mrs. Rusham, who manages to be caring while keeping her distance, or describing plodding, idiosyncratic bureaucrats, Cooper deftly sketches her characters, lacing the charm with plenty of menace. Just as Willow's inquiry is picking up steam, someone sets a fatal fire in her office building, and Tom, her detective husband, is shot while on duty. Exerting her iron self-control nearly to the breaking point, Willow triumphs and finds the killer. Material that might have been overwrought in less sure hands becomes, under Cooper's direction, clever, unpredictable and thoroughly absorbing. (July)
Reviewed on: 07/03/1995
Release date: 07/01/1995
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