In this ninth, engaging Nell Bray mystery (after 1999's Absent Friends), set in England on the eve of WWI, suffragettes clash with police, prison inmates are hunger-striking and immigrants from various suspect countries endure harassment, while a community of aesthetes and artists tries to remain above it all. Amidst the political chaos, feminist crusader and freelance gumshoe Nell finds the body of her cousin, Verona North, hanging in the family boathouse. While Nell feels no remorse at her self-absorbed young cousin's demise, the swiftly delivered verdict of suicide smells fishy to her. Nell's ensuing investigation entangles her with opium eaters, socialists and socialites; the closer she gets to penetrating the heart of Verona's mystery, the more bewildering her chase becomes. Was her young cousin really the pure and troubled young woman of her parents' memories? Or was she involved in some dangerous business that ended in her elimination by dark forces unknown? Linscott effortlessly creates the atmosphere of prewar Britain, with its combination of excitement and innocence that, like Verona's, is just about to be cut short forever. Her characters are vivid and appealing, especially Nell herself, whose wry tone keeps her first-person narration from becoming self-righteous. This is an intelligent and exciting story, by an author with both a deft touch and a mischievous voice. (Apr. 16) FYI: Absent Friends won the CWA Ellis Peters Historical Dagger and the Herodotus Award from the Historical Mystery Appreciation Society for the Best International Historical Mystery of 1999.