It's three days before Christmas, and the Malworth Amateur Dramatic Society's rehearsal of Cinderella, scripted by GP Carl Bignall, is struggling thanks to a flu epidemic that has hit the production.
But as rehearsals finally get under way at the Riverside Theatre, the police across town are entering Carl's house - and discovering the body of his wife, Estelle . . .
Why was Carl so late for rehearsal? Why is Dr Bignall's neighbour so reluctant to tell the truth about what he witnessed? And why is Dr Denis Leeward, Carl's partner, sitting in his car, slightly bruised and in a state of guilty panic?
All Detective Chief Inspector Lloyd knows for sure, as he takes charge of the investigation, is that one of them is a murderer . . .
In her 11th Lloyd and Hill mystery (Verdict Unsafe; etc.), British author McGown provides an expertly crafted whodunit. Judy Hill, a bit cranky in her eighth month of pregnancy and uncertain about Lloyd's willingness to be a father again, ropes her reluctant partner in life and crime into joining her at a rehearsal for a local dramatic society's production of Cinderella. When Lloyd is called from there to the scene of a suspicious death involving the wife of one of the players, the curtain rises on a fascinating domestic drama. Estelle Bignall, apparent victim of a robbery gone wrong, was married to handsome doctor Carl Bignall, who was safely at rehearsal when the call came. Ryan Chester, well known to the local cops as a clever thief, is tied to the scene by the theft of a car and a sackful of Christmas presents from the Bignall house. Ryan's younger half-brother, Dexter, has been spotted running away from the scene of the crime. Sinister next-door neighbor Eric Watson, a former cop, is curiously reluctant to talk to the police. What does he have to hide? Imperturbable as ever, the witty and wily Lloyd, with the able help of his subordinate, Tom Finch, sorts through the maze of conflicting evidence and improbable stories to get to the heart of the matter. Once again, McGown has delivered outstanding entertainment.