When London textile conservationist Zoe Templeman discovers her boss's body hanging from a rafter in his studio, it's just the beginning of what will prove to be a nightmare of murder and personal tragedy in this flawless page-turner from British veteran Armstrong (Beyond the Pale). Well-respected by other antiques dealers and customers alike, Max Loudon-Fryer seems an unlikely suicide candidate. A blood-stained hammer that turns up in the victim's car appears to be the first important clue to the crime. Zoe's natural curiosity and genuine human warmth lead her to uncover the secrets of a number of people, including Max's gorgeous Pakistani housekeeper, Saba, and her four-year-old son; Max's estranged wife, Desiree; and even the love of Zoe's own life, renowned plastic surgeon Dr. Haydon Masure. After more than one impeccable reputation shatters in the course of the investigation, Zoe flees to Paris to deliver a valuable restored tapestry to its owner, and there all the pieces come together in a heart-wrenching conclusion. As skilled at plot weaving as her heroine is at restoring antique tapestries, Armstrong combines credible secondary characters, vivid settings (notably cold and rainy London in autumn), subtle hints and misdirections into a seamless whole certain to appeal to a broad range of mystery fans. (Apr.)
Forecast:As usual, libraries will be the prime outlet for this British import, unless Severn is able to offer a discount and returns policy acceptable to retailers. A falling (unbloodied) hammer on the jacket is as striking as the story itself.