The second Willow King mystery by British author Cooper ( A Common Death ) is lightweight and wordy; clues unearthed all too slowly fall into place quickly and confusingly at the end. The puzzle takes a back seat to exhaustive descriptions of Willow's psychological handicaps, which constrict her relationship with partner and lover Chief Inspector Tom Worth. Some years earlier, emotionally repressed civil servant Willow created an alter ego: wealthy, hedonistic Cressida Woodruffe. From Thursday evening to Tuesday morning, ``Cressida'' writes successful romance novels in a swanky Belgravia flat; then she takes a bus to drab Clapham to resume her existence as Willow. Sandwiched between overlong passages about the transitions between her two lives are bits of plot: Tom asks for her help in proving that several poisonings are linked and in tracking down the killer. As Willow investigates, her two identities begin to merge, threatening her tenuous control over her feelings. Her interviews with suspects lack suspense, and the thickening plot makes leaps of logic that barely explain the murders. ( Jan. )
In her second sterling performance ( A Common Death , LJ 1/91), strict and proper British civil servant Willow King--also known as posh romantic novelist Cressida Woodruffe--searches for common ground in a group of apparently unrelated poisonings. Working closely with Chief Inspector Tom Worth, Willow uses her own inimitable resources, including the advantages of having a dual life, to grasp elusive details of the case. Author Cooper provides her principal characters with adequate depth and space for growth in this finely constructed plot.