Eve McNabb had enjoyed getting to know her mother as an adult, a task made easier after May retired from her long-held position as head mistress to a village primary school. Her rapid death from breast cancer put paid to do that, and Eve took time from work to sort out the funeral and the house. Among the condolence cards was a curious letter, addressed to May from a woman Eve had never heard of, alluding to a lesbian relationship and mentioning Eve’s long dead father. It was enough to set Eve investigating, into her mother’s past and into the possible existence of a father Eve had never known and who may still be alive.
I’ve read Barnard’s mysteries for over twenty years, and his prowess has not flagged. They are slender but packed with plot and character, he has a real gift of capturing a personality, and his dialogue is natural and appears effortless. I was quickly invested in Eve’s search to uncover hidden truths, and really enjoyed the way Barnard caught up several threads into a narrative whole – in addition to the dual and related plots of May’s possible secret life and John’s reason for leaving England on short notice, there’s a murder and a romance that is warm and deftly portrayed despite its usually unsympathetic love interest, a married man. There is also one of the most resonant and shocking endings of a British cosy that I can remember for a long time. – Alex