In Remembrance of Rose

A spirited and intelligent woman of seventy, Rose Amaury asks Lennox Kemp to prepare her will because she knows he worked as a private investigator while temporarily disbarred. In private, she tells him that there have been attempts on her life. When she is murdered a week later, the police have an obvious suspect: Kevin Roding, the son of her cleaning woman, is a petty thief from a family of jailbirds. Kemp, however, is intrigued by the tension and secrecy shown by other people who were close to Rose. Her daughter Paula Warrender despises the new town outside the walls of her stately home, but Paula has a successful stockbroker husband and would have inherited with or without the new will. Tullia Cavendish, who lives in genteel poverty with her brother the vicar, is surprised and grateful that Rose left her a modest bequest but nevertheless refuses to cooperate with Kemp. The biggest surprise of all comes when Kemp is warned--both by the police and by the head of his law firm--to drop the investigation. Putting the pieces together, he realizes that the gag order comes from the highest levels of military intelligence.

The careful plotting and skillful characterization by M.R.D. Meek (a woman and a retired solicitor) make this startling twist both plausible and intriguing. Like many contemporary British detective novelists, she throws issues of class and family into the foreground and paints characters at various stages of change. Many of them are people worth caring about. This is the third book featuring Lennox Kemp; the others should also be good reading.