cover image A Hovering of Vultures

A Hovering of Vultures

Robert Barnard. Scribner Book Company, $20 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-684-19625-1

Detective Constable Peace of the West Yorkshire CID is set on a ``watching brief'' by Scotland Yard to learn what new scheme the shady--at least--Gerald Suzman has hatched. Suzman is promoting interest in the writings of Susannah and Joshua Sneddon, a sister and brother who died in a 1932 murder-suicide, by promoting the Sneddon Fellowship, which seems no more than a glorified fan club. Charlie Peace, as undercover as a Cockney-born black cop can be, joins the first weekend meeting of the group and after two days of polite snooping still can't figure out what the scam is. Then Suzman is found bludgeoned to death in his remote cottage and Charlie, joined by Detective Superintendent Oddie, drops his cover. An Americanized widow who'd known the Sneddons, a distant Sneddon cousin, a mysterious Norwegian scholar and various locals figure in this fine, literate puzzler. Oddie and Peace uncover plans mixing sex and money in England and neo-Nazism and money in Norway before unmasking the killer and, maybe, solving a 60-year-old crime. While skewering literary pretensions, Barnard ( A Fatal Attachment ) writes a tale that is both cozily down-home and wittily urbane. Mystery Guild selection . (Sept.)