Final Moments

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Roy Franklin, called to collect his children from school because their mother has failed to pick them up, discovers his former wife’s murdered body stuffed behind the front seat of her car. Venetia Franklin was a beautiful, self-centered woman, and a fair number of suspects had motives -- and, possibly, opportunities--to kill her. Was it Roy? The divorce settlement drained the capital he needs to expand his appliance shop. Or Jane, his second wife? She desperately wants children of her own, and her thirty-fifth birthday is looming, but they need the income from her job as a nurse. Perhaps Philip Colborn, Venetia’s married lover, wanted out of a situation that could damage his career as bank manager. Or did Ruth Colburn learn of the affair and hope to save the marriage that ensured her position in county society? Furthermore, there are two psychiatric institutions in the vicinity, and Venetia’s newest male friend turns out to have a former wife who ran away because she was afraid of him.

Emma Page is very good at the straightforward, solid construction that marks the classic British mystery. Detective Chief Inspector Kelsey, a patient man who has no personal life to interfere with the tale, systematically accumulates details, conducts interviews, and puts together timetables. His job is made more challenging because some witnesses are children and mental patients whose memory may be faulty. Page plays absolutely fair, giving readers plenty of straight information and a chance to construct their own logical inferences. She also provides an interesting contemporary setting in a workaday British provincial town.