am 29. Mai 2000
Early 1960s, Scotland, a touch of Oxford, and pathological obsessions are the context for a fascinating plot. Though one of the author's Ben Reese series, the book stands very well on its own legs. Ben Reese, an archivist and unsung war hero, is called upon to help a friend solve the murder of a wealthy business woman who was also an Oxford scholar and professor. Ben is an American from Ohio academia, combining work with visiting friends in Scotland. The United Kingdom is familiar ground for Ben, from the years of WW II and subsequently his academic work. Some of the best aspects of the story are the intersections of the present with Ben's own past.
This is no cardboard copy of the classic British mystery. It is original and spiced with plenty of suspense. The motives for murder are as classic as Shakespeare and as old as time -- avarice and self-absorption manifested in the singlemindedness of the obsessive, secret collector of rare and priceless artifacts. In this case it is a clever villain whose victim dies of apparent natural causes. But this victim was a worthy opponent -- she left a letter foretelling her death but not naming her murderer. Instead Ben Reese must unravel a complex set of clues which may (or may not) be linked with other murders of other times, including a 400-year-old murder in the turbulent Tudor reigns. Commingled with the clues are a cast of eccentric characters each with his or her own agenda. Sometimes the author's description of geography is a bit confusing, but the map provided at the beginning is helpful for those who want to accurately follow Ben's travels in pursuit of evidence. And while some of the characters are more like props than people, Ben is fully drawn and an interesting person to know. The prose is well done and lyrically augmented with poetry written by the victim as a form of diary.
Whether by a fire on a rainy day or in the shade on a sunny summer afternoon, you will not put this book down until it's done and then you will wish it went on just a bit more!