cover image The Ambiguity of Murder

The Ambiguity of Murder

Roderic Jeffries / Author Minotaur Books $22.95 (208p) ISBN 97

Murder will out, and does, in this latest addition (after 2000's An Enigmatic Disappearance) to the long-running and well-loved Inspector Alvarez series. Set as usual on Jeffries's home island of Mallorca, it features fair-play detection and (more importantly) keen observation of the human species. When the body of a retired Bolivian diplomat is found floating facedown in his swimming pool, Alvarez suspects the death was no accident. When he begins receiving calls threatening his life if he doesn't drop the case, he knows he's on the right trail. Then the unexpected occurs, proving family bonds are stronger than bureaucratic torpor. The simpatico Alvarez bases his conclusions not on fantastic deductions or painstaking forensic evidence but on patient and profound insight into the human soul. Like Maigret, he savors a case, displaying tolerant bemusement at human foibles. (""Why did modern youth enjoy hairstyles which made them look as if they were suffering from alopecia?"") In addition, there are nice touches of local color throughout. (""The bay backed by mountains and marshland, the cerulean sea, and the curving beaches of sand, pebbles, or rock, were still beautiful despite the marina, flats, restaurants and stores selling kitschy goods and the holiday camp which looked as if it had been designed by a French bureaucrat."") In sum, the style is pleasing, the detection inspired and the novel, as a whole, sometimes tragic but never dispiriting. (May 14)