Fate Worse Than Death

Sheila Radley

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13 September 2012
246 pages

In the hottest summer for half a century, someone kidnaps Beryl Websdell’s garden gnome, leaving a ransom note demanding half a pound of jelly babies for its return. Beryl is upset, and so are her neighbours in the rural Suffolk village where she lives, because the gnome disappeared three days after her daughter also went missing. Beryl doesn’t think her daughter has been kidnapped . . . not really . . . but she is worried. And so are the police.

Inspector Martin Tait is holidaying in the neighbourhood at the time, visiting his elderly Aunt Con form whom he hopes one day to inherit a lot of money. That, when it happens, will suit his plans to become a very young and very wealthy Chief Constable . . . and perhaps to marry Alison, pretty daughter of Detective Chief Inspector Quantrill, his ex-boss?

But two things happen to jolt Martin Tait out of his pleasant holiday day-dreams: he finds a body in an empty cottage of his Aunt’s; and Aunt Con later confronts him with some shattering information. . .

This is the fifth in Sheila Radley’s highly successful series of crime novels featuring Douglas Quantrill, his family and colleagues, and set in the Suffolk countryside. She has a novelist’s eye for character and motive, as well as landscape, and she waves the strands of the story – love, yearning, terror, grief, bitterness and suspicion – into a subtle, engrossing, and satisfying whole.