Diana's Altar

Barbara Cleverly. Soho Crime, $26.95 (400p) ISBN 978-1-61695-664-6
Cleverly's uneven 13th whodunit featuring Scotland Yard Assistant Commissioner Joe Sandilands (after 2014's Enter Pale Death) opens with a promisingly macabre setup in 1933 Cambridge, England. Dr. Adelaide Hartest enters All Hallows Church with the intent of having a private conversation with God, only to be confronted with a dying man with a knife stuck in his back, who confesses to having stabbed himself before expiring. The dead man is identified as Sir Aidan Mountfitchet, who served in the Great War with Joe, Adelaide's love interest. Joe, who has learned of a "convergence of wealth, privilege, intellect, and evil that could... even bring down the government," confides to Adelaide that he sent Sir Aidan to gather intelligence about Gregory Pertinax, "baronet and all-round bad character." Adelaide informs Joe that she witnessed a second suspicious death that same night at Pertinax's country estate, where she was called to tend to a servant with stomach pains. The plodding plot falls short of Cleverly's best, and Joe uncharacteristically comes across as colorless. Agent: Juliet Burton, Juliet Burton Literary (U.K.). (May)
Reviewed on: 05/16/2016
Release date: 05/01/2016
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 400 pages - 978-1-61695-805-3
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