What could have brought such violence on Beth Smallwood, a woman found beaten to death on the steps of a village church? DCI Neil Paget and his partner DS John Tregalles investigate once again, tugging at the loose ends in this complicated case to unravel the intricate web of deceit and deception at work in this seemingly peaceful Shropshire town.
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Fortyish Beth Smallwood, widowed mother of good-for-nothing, drug-addict son Lenny, lives hand to mouth in a cottage in Shropshire, taking the bus every day to her bank job. She has lied in court to protect her son, has stolen money from the bank for him, and, in light of threats against his life by a gang he owes money to, reluctantly plans to steal more. Then, however, shes unexpectedly offered a promotion by boss Arthur Gresham, married but faithless, bypassing a furious, more experienced Harry Beechamthe price: an abusive sex session in Greshams office, noted by secretary Rachel Fairmont, of whom Gresham has tired. That evening Beth is asked by the vicar of St. Justins Church, where shes a volunteer, to prepare some candles for a next-day wedding. Its there shes found, dead of a blow to the head, by Detective Chief Inspector Neil Paget (Stone Dead, 1998, etc.), who was alerted by an anonymous phone call. Paget and his Detective Sergeant John Tregallis painstakingly interview the bank staff and all of Beths neighbors and acquaintances (Lenny is near death in a hospital, beaten to a pulp by his drug supplier), finally uncovering the convoluted motive and an unlikely killer. Pagets persona is as attractive as ever, but all the salient points in the case are covered and monotonously re-covered, lessening crispness and pace. Still, a solid performance even so, and another boon to lovers of the British police procedural. -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.From Publishers Weekly:
Shropshire police inspector Neil Paget investigates the brutal murder of a single mother in the intriguing followup to 1997's Stone Dead. When Beth Smallwood's body is found in front of the altar of Broadminster's village church, she appears to be the victim of a robbery gone awry. But after Paget finds signs that Beth had been raped and beaten earlier that same day, he believes that the killer had a more personal motive. Heading the list of suspects is Beth's no-good teenage son, Lenny, for whom she had been embezzling funds from the local bank where she worked. Next come Harry Beecham and Terry Ling, two aggrieved co-workers who resented Beth's recent promotion to manager of small business loans. Finally, there's Beth's boss, Arthur Gresham, a notorious womanizer who may have feared that Beth would disclose his own illegal activities. Smith's tale is set in a world saturated with the baser instincts of the human race. Almost all his female characters are weak, pitiable creatures motivated by fear and petty jealousy. They are easily manipulated by their abusive male counterparts, who view women as inferiors to be used for sex and fast cash. Gritty as it is, Smith's deftly written story unravels as the climax focuses on a surprise culprit whose last-minute introduction may disappoint expectant readers. (Aug.)
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Book Description Constable, 1999. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 94794707