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"[Airth's] meticulously detailed procedural mysteries are beautifully written . . . well worth reading, and rereading." --Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times
Snowed in at a country manor, former Scotland Yard inspectors John Madden and Angus Sinclair find themselves trapped in the company of a murderer.
On a trip into Winchester, former chief inspector Angus Sinclair learns of a tragedy that has taken place in the village he is staying in. Beloved church organist Greta Hartmann has slipped and fallen to her death in a shallow creek, and while investigations conclude it to be an accident, her friend and housemate, Vera, remains unconvinced. After learning that Greta was the widow of a prominent anti-Nazi German preacher, Sinclair meets with the distraught Vera, and he resolves to dig deeper into the story. His investigations lead him to the stately manor of Julia Lesage, where she lives with her devoted staff that includes her secretary, cook, and driver. Though confined to a wheelchair, Julia is an electrifying spirit with a sharp wit, and those who know her adore her. Among those who do, a gentleman with dubious business dealings is also staying at the house--and Julia appears to be in love with him. A blizzard hits, keeping Sinclair, and later Madden, on the grounds with little to do but analyze the case of Greta's death, until a murder takes place, and everyone becomes a suspect.
Set in post-WWII England, Airth's outstanding sixth John Madden mystery (after 2017's The Death of Kings) takes retired Scotland Yard chief inspector Angus Sinclair, a series regular, to Hampshire to visit friends. From his host, Sinclair learns that Greta Hartmann, the local church's German organist, drowned in a stream after slipping and hitting her head on a rock. The official verdict of accident is challenged by Greta's housemate, Vera Cruickshank, who refuses to believe that her close friend, who always forded the stream with great care, just slipped. Vera's argument impresses Sinclair, and his suspicions of foul play are strengthened when he learns that Greta was unsettled after a chance encounter with a man whose car had broken down. Given Greta's nationality, Sinclair considers the possibility that she recognized a Nazi war criminal, who subsequently killed her to keep her quiet. The suspense heightens once Madden, a shell-shocked WWI veteran, gets involved in the search for the murderer. Charles Todd fans will be pleased.