cover image Faithful Unto Death

Faithful Unto Death

Caroline Graham / Author St. Martin's Press $23.95 (320p) ISBN

Witty characterizations coupled with some astute reflections on life in a remote English village more than make up for a dearth of solid suspects in Graham's latest addition to the Inspector Barnaby series (Written in Blood, 1995). Pampered housewife Simone Hollingsworth vanishes. Her workaholic hubby, Alan, hides out, hits the bottle hard and subsequently dies of poisoning. Timid next-door neighbor Brenda Brockley also disappears, as does local artist Sarah Lawson, beloved of Gray Patterson, a financially ruined software designer and onetime business partner of Alan Hollingsworth. Since Alan once ripped poor Gray off to buy a fancy piece of jewelry for the vapid, if decorous Simone, Gray's looking more than a wee bit guilty. Eventually, a ransom message is delivered for Simone, and Brenda is revealed to have been involved in a secret romance. Series copper Barnaby is an unobtrusive detective who plods for the most part and is aided by surly subordinate Sergeant Troy, a ladies' man and chronic snob. What distinguishes this series from run-of-the-mill English country fare is Graham's dry wit, which is especially smooth when turned on the banality of English middle-class repression: ""Now, as she slid the little aluminum tray from its temptingly illustrated sleeve, she thought how very reassuring frozen comestibles were. Constrained beneath a glittery crust of sterile crystals, they did not leak or smell or ask to be in any way humanly dealt with."" (Aug.)