A Place of Safety
Caroline Graham. St. Martin's Press, $23.95 (320pp) ISBN 978-0-312-24419-4
Graham's eighth novel (which follows Faithful Unto Death) masterfully recounts the effects of love--or its absence--on a diverse group of people, including her series detective, Inspector Tom Barnaby. In the peaceful English village of Ferne Basset, Ann Lawrence has a row with Carlotta, one of the young felons her husband, the former vicar, is sheltering. After she accuses the girl of stealing her heirloom earrings, she and the young woman take their fight to the village's picturesque bridge, where Carlotta falls into the river. Seeing this and hearing the girl yell, ""Don't push,"" Charlie Leathers decides to blackmail Ann when the girl's body doesn't surface. However, the morning after the payoff, Barnaby, whose silver wedding anniversary is almost upon him, is summoned to learn that the unpleasant Charlie has been garroted and his dog, Candy, roughed up and left to die. When another blackmail note arrives, Ann decides that even though she's withdrawn the money, she won't pay up. However, she is attacked before she can return it to the bank, and the cash is stolen. In order to sort out who would kill ne'er-do-well Charlie, what happened to Carlotta and who attacked Ann, Barnaby and his team must peel away the layers of secrets harbored in the village. Those secrets, rendered in poignant detail, concern the various types of love that exist in Ferne Basset. Graham is a master of pacing, and her dialogue is dark and worldly-wise enough to make this much fuller fare than most English-village cozies. (Oct.) FYI: The Inspector Barnaby series has been adapted for television by A&E.
Reviewed on: 10/04/1999