An old-fashioned title befits this somewhat old-fashioned British mystery, a police procedural that focuses on such eternal verities as the battle between the sexes and class conflict. Only when the threat of exposure on the Internet helps bring a criminal to heel in the penultimate chapter does Ashford (Deadly Reunion, etc.) convince us that this novel is set in the contemporary world. At first, Detective Constable Michael Keen, Clunford CID, thinks that the death of retiree Reginald Noyes following a hit-and-run is an accident. Then, in Noyes's house he finds a hidden metal box containing a huge sum of cash, along with a report of a collision at sea between two ships, the Slecome Bay and the Atoka, in 1963. Keen calls on the victim's nearest relative, Laura Ellis, a niece who has no affection for her late uncle because he once tried to rape her. Looking into the ship collision, Keen discovers that a young steward on the Slecome Bay drowned under suspicious circumstances at the time of the crash. Aboard the ship had been Noyes, as one of the crew, and Cedric Searle, a well-to-do passenger. Separated from his wife, Keen soon becomes as interested in pursuing romance with Laura as in solving the case. It spoils nothing to reveal that all signs of guilt point to the arrogant Searle, whom Noyes may have been blackmailing. But how can Keen prove the man's guilt and bring him to justice? The author ties things up neatly enough, but on the whole the story doesn't have a lot of zip.
Reviewed on: 09/04/2000 Release date: 09/01/2000 Genre: Fiction