Coolly efficient Willow King leads a double life. From Tuesday through Thursday, she's a bespectacled civil servant at London's Department of Old Age Pensions. For the rest of the week, she's the chic, immensely successful romance novelist Cressida Woodruffe (complete with lover). But as quickly as the minister in charge of DOAP is dispatched with a few blows to the head, and before the culprit has been apprehended (largely through Willow's own efforts), her orderly existence and prized self-sufficiency, painstakingly earned and protected, come perilously close to an end. In order to guard her secrets, Willow eschews police protection and sets off to find Algernon Endelsham's killer before she herself can be unmasked. Her belief in her invulnerability is shaken first by a threat of violence, then by vandalism of her flat. Sexual passion further erodes the barricades, leaving her unsure for the first time in her life. Willow is formidable and off-putting; her alter ego Cressida is no less remote. Thus the psychological metamorphosis in this otherwise mild mystery becomes pleasurably captivating. British and a recipient of the Tony Godwin Award, the pseudonymous Cooper has published three books under her own name, Daphne Wright. This is her first mystery. (Jan.)
Only one person knows that civil servant Wilhelmina ``Willow'' King, the rather dowdy, 38, and very clever lady who works part-time for the Department of Old Age Pension, leads quite a separate life as a coolly elegant and successful romance novelist. Investigation into the beating death of Willow's dashing boss on London's Clapham Common threatens to expose Willow's duplicity, so she decides to unmask the killer herself. Cooper handles Willow's dual roles most admirably; the conceit allows a nice dichotomy between two ways of life, two sets of characters, and two periods of time. Finely constructed and well orchestrated, and set off with careful, refined prose.