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Posted April 18, 2012
In the newest [and very welcome] Bill Slider mystery, the Detective Inspector is presented with a missing persons report: Melanie Hunter, a young woman who is a paleontologist at a prestigious Kensington museum, has not been seen in a day, and though that is normally not a matter for the police at that early stage, there is a hint of Sherlock Holmes in the fact that her dog, usually a very quiet animal, has been left alone in her apartment and has been barking a lot. When her downstairs neighbor lets himself into the apartment with the key he had been provided for just such purpose, he takes the dog back with him and reports the incident to the police. The worst fears are realized in short order when the woman’s dead body is discovered.
Suspicion first falls on that self-same neighbor, who is found to be a convicted murderer, though out of prison for several years. Although everyone who knew Melanie says she was very friendly and loved by all, there are soon several serious suspects, and no real proof or evidence to narrow it down. Slider, always a sensitive soul, finds the girl’s death haunting him.
Slider is a wonderful protagonist, and his colleagues in Shepherd’s Bush cop shop are delightful creations all, including D.S. Porson, king of the malapropisms and mixed metaphors, described variously as having “the looks and charm of a bunion,” wearing a “greatcoat, the folds of which were so voluminous a Bedouin could have kept his entire family in there, and several of his favourite horses as well.” The author’s trademark evocative descriptions of people and places are terrific as always; the writing throughout is wonderful in its humor and poignancy, and the mystery thoroughly satisfying, with a fascinating resolution that is truly unexpected - - though all the clues are there.
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