Stiff News

Catherine Aird, Author St. Martin's Press $21.95 (240p) ISBN 978-0-312-20023-7

Detective Inspector C.D. Sloan of the Calleshire Constabulary and his sidekick Detective Constable Crosby (After Effects, 1996, etc.) investigate possible murder at a nursing home in the new, very British, mystery from Aird. Following the death of Gertrude Powell, one of the home's residents, Gertrude's son Lionel receives a letter on the day of her funeral insinuating that she may have been murdered. Further investigation reveals that all of Gertrude's correspondence is missing. Most of the residents of the nursing home have known each other since WWII as members or family of the Fearnshires Regiment. None, however, seems to be able to explain the apparent secret of Gertrude's second marriage, let alone the circumstances of the woman's death. This isn't Aird's strongest showing. Her prose is literate as always, but character development is weak. The action only slogs along, except toward the end, when one resident disappears from the home and the search is on as the two detectives bring past and present together in a surprising conclusion. (Jan.)