Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Death at Coombe Farm (DI Tremayne #4), by Phillip Strang

Phillip Strang, February 2018

Tremayne is once again fending off Superintendent Moulton's attempts to get him to retire when an unexpected death occurs in the village of Coombe. Claude Selwood, the owner of Coombe Farm and patriarch of the Selwood family, has been killed by his horse, Napoleon. While Napoleon has a lousy temper and never liked Claude, it turns out he wasn't unprovoked.

Someone had been firing pellets from an air gun at the two of them.

The death is ruled accidental, because Claude would not have died if he hadn't had the reins wrapped around his hands. Tremayne has a bad feeling about the whole thing, and Yarwood doesn't think he's wrong, but bad  feelings are not evidence. Even the conflict among the survivors, with widow Marge Selwood clearly favoring her two younger sons, Nicholas and William, over the eldest and heir, Gordon, with his wife, Cathy, whom Marge insists is a mere gold digger of loose values, suggests no motive for anyone to have fired pellets at Claude and the horse, that should not have killed either of them.

When an aging field hand, Old Ted, is shot dead with real .22 bullets, it's another matter. Although there's still no apparent motive. What reason is there to kill Old Ted?

We begin to see that Cathy Selwood is smart and tough, and whatever her background, determined to make things work at Coombe Farm, now that her husband owns it. Marge Selwood is equally determined to throw Cathy and Gordon out.

Cathy's death is next.

It's not the last.

Things get more complicated when it turns out Gordon has an entirely legitimate son, by Rose Fletcher, a girl he knew as a teenager. She's still nearby, and their son is sixteen and increasingly curious about who his father is.

And Len and Fiona Dowling, a real estate developer and local politician with ambitions of being mayor, have suckered Gordon into a far less favorable deal for some of the Coombe Farm land than Claude had originally agreed to. We've met the Dowlings before, and they have not become more honest, or trustworthy, or likable, in the year that's elapsed since the murders associated with the local community theater they were involved.

This is story about the conflicts among strong women who married comparatively weak men, who need their strength to accomplish their goals. Some are more likable, some less likable, and their brains and will largely determine what happens.

This is another good addition to the series. Recommended.

I received a free electronic galley of this book from the author, as part of the coming release of the boxed set, and am reviewing it voluntarily.