Saturday, October 6, 2018

Death and the Assassin's Blade (DI Tremayne #2), by Phillip Strang

Phillip Strang, November 2017

It's six months after the terrible events at Avon Hill. Tremayne is doing something utterly atypical for himself--attending a local "Shakespeare in the Park" performance of Julius Caesar. He's doing it for DS Clare Yarwood, who is back at work after extended compassionate following Harry's death, but still not fully back to normal. Tremayne thinks what they really need is a new murder to investigate, but Salisbury and environs have been quiet.

Some time after Mark Antony's speech following Caesar's death, the head of the local theater group, Peter Freestone, an occasional drinking buddy of Tremayne's approaches them. Caesar, or rather the actor playing him, Gordon Mason, a local solicitor, is actually dead, of stab wounds.

Two of the blades for the fake assassin's knives had been replaced with real, sharp, and non-retractable blades. Both had been used by Mason, on stage. Two of the actors among the theatrical assassins actually murdered Gordon Mason.

Turns out no one really liked him, but there's no obvious motive for anyone to hate him enough to kill him, either.

The actors are a diverse lot. A real estate agent, his social-climbing wife with the interesting background who may be the real business brain of the two, an accountant, a hairdresser who is flamboyantly gay on the job but much tamer off the job, a teenager, a worker in a local gardening center and his lover, the former town tramp, who now seems at least as grounded as anyone else in the group, a funeral director, a university student, a member of the local town council, and a stock market day trader with a trophy wife.

The women can't be the killers, but they might be involved.

But no one seems to have a plausible motive, not for murder.

The design of the handles means there's no useful fingerprints to identify who held the murder weapons. The chaotic nature of the assassination scene means there's no way to pick out who had the actual murder weapons when they stabbed Caesar.

This is a long and difficult case for Tremayne and Yarwood, with no way to find an answer except by carefully reconstructing the past and the current relationships among each of the actors. Was Mason blackmailing someone?

Meanwhile, Yarwood is still working through her feelings about the death of Harry Holchester and the circumstances of that death, and Tremayne is holding off Moulton's attempts to make him retire, while very tentatively getting reacquainted with his now-widowed ex-wife.

There's both a good mystery here, and some good character building.

Recommended.

I received a free electronic copy of this book from the author, and am reviewing it voluntarily.