Blood on the Happy Highway

Sheila Radley

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13 September 2012
208 pages

In a copse near a busy Suffolk road, a body has been found neatly parcelled in plastic. And headless. Detective Chief Inspector Douglas Quantrill and his team have been working on the case for two months without a single lead. Sharing Quantrill’s office, and replacing cocky young Martin Tait, is a new detective sergeant, who has shoulder-length dark hair and a good deal of cool competence. Hilary Lloyd makes Quantrill feel uncomfortable. Not that he has anything against women detectives, of course . . . but how can he share with her the easy camaraderie that team-working should involve?

This new constraint at work combines with the apparently insoluble murder to make Quantrill unusually gloomy. But a thoroughly nasty little incident cheers him slightly: someone has left a decapitated cat and a warning sprayed in blood-red paint on the doorstep of a local house. Might headless cat and headless corpse be linked?

Hilary Lloyd, interviewing the owner of the cat, finds herself enmeshed in the affairs of the Arrowsmith family – Ross Arrowsmith, brilliant head of the booming firm, Arrowsmith Micro-Electronics; Jean Arrowsmith, his likeable wife; Simon Arrowsmith, his gentle half-brother; elderly Nellie, his stepmother. And brassy Angela, wife of Simon, owner of the cat, and recipient of the gruesome warning . . .

There seems, after all, to be no connection between cat and corpse, and to Quantrill’s annoyance Martin Tait breezes in, sent by the regional crime squad to help in the investigation. But by then the Arrowsmith family affairs have become more rancorous, and Quantrill and Hilary have another murder on their hands.

This is the fourth in Sheila Radley’s highly successful series involving Chief Inspector Quantrill, his family and colleagues, and the fictional town of Breckham Market. She has a novelist’s eye for character and motive as well as landscape, and this story of overpowering love and fury is set against the calm September beauty of the Suffolk countryside.