Murder Most Distressing

Leslie Stephan, Author St. Martin's Press $12.95 (167p) ISBN 978-0-312-55312-8
Stephan's debut is promising and often engaging. No-nonsense Mary Lou Stockbridge, runt of an old New England family, brings evidence to the Hampford, Mass., police that Great Aunt Eunice has been murdered. The various family members, suspects all, react in a typical Brahmin way: they are embarrassed at the notoriety. Chief Henderson and Sergeant Putnam, half of the small Berkshires town's police force, must deal with a houseful of eccentrics, high-priced lawyers, an aggressive state cop and a clutch of nasty family retainers. The plot is tangled, multigenerational and absorbing. Putnam, the ostensible hero, is rather bland but the supporting characters and local colorfrom ""the big house'' to Hampford's shantytownare wonderful. In one brilliant scene the Stockbridges politely, devastatingly snub someone who isn't ``a real Lowell.'' One might have wished for a bit more fleshing out of Putnam and a Marple-ish old spinster named Bea, but this is still very nicely done. ( June 30)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1986
Release date: 01/01/1986
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