Deep Sleep

Frances Fyfield, Author, Jane Chelius, Editor Pocket Books $18 (0p) ISBN 978-0-671-73546-3

Equal parts probing character-study and taut psychological thriller, this stylish mystery from Edgar-nominee Fyfield ( A Question of Guilt ) examines the dark heart beating beneath the civilized British exterior of a desperate criminal who nearly manages the perfect murder. While recuperating from an operation in London, beleaguered Crown Prosectur Helen West is catching up on her files when a police inquiry on a closed case gives her pause. Although the cause of death of 46-year-old Margaret Carlton, a pharmacist's wife, was officially deemed natural causes, the local constable was in enough doubt to alert Helen's office. According to her husband, Mrs. Carlton had acquired ``the habit of sniffing chloroform to induce sleep and/or well-being,'' and one night she overdid it. Or did she? The constable's inquiry bothers Helen and she begins her own investigation of the chemist husband, his nubile assistant, the assistant's ex-husband and a neighborhood junkie--all vividly realized individuals. Helen's policeman paramour and partner in detection, Geoffrey Bailey, seen in Not That Kind of Place , begs her to let matters rest this time, but she cannot. As the novel races to its climax, extraordinary revelations unveil human nature at its worst. Mystery Guild selection. (Mar.)
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