cover image A Day in the Death of Dorothea Cassidy

A Day in the Death of Dorothea Cassidy

Ann Cleeves. Fawcett Books, $4.99 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-449-14789-4

Cleeves ( Murder in My Backyard ) allows her respect for the traditional mystery to fossilize her writing into a formula. The victim is the vicar's wife. The setting is a prototypical English town during a fair. The detective, Inspector Ramsay, is an unmarried and singularly brainy member of the constabulary ably assisted by a loyal sergeant who desperately desires action, not theories. Ramsay is as mundane and conventional as the trappings, as he tries to understand the victim while tracing her last hours of life. Meanwhile a succession of suspects is paraded for the reader's inspection, including the victim's stepson, his insecure girlfriend, a half-witted young man half in love with the victim, a dying widow, a social worker and an alcoholic ne'er-do-well. Unfortunately, none of them grabs our attention or loyalty, even after the half-wit is the victim of the inevitable second murder. The pace slowly picks up after that, and the concluding 20 or so pages are suspenseful and fast-paced, but they seem slim reward for readers who must slog through the first 190 pages of cliched two-dimensionality to get there. (Mar.)