Wednesday, January 8, 2020

The Body in the Ditch (DI Tremayne #8), by Phillip Strang

Phillip Strang, December 2019

In the village of Brockenstoke, there is a farm which has become the home to a sort of self-improvement guru and his flock. It's less poisonous than some; residents have to contribute to the upkeep of the place, but they don't sign over all their property and income. They are regarded as weird but harmless.

Then one of the residents, a young woman named Charlotte Merton with a history of drug addiction, is found dead in a ditch, with a plastic sheet over her. She is found by Bess Carmichael, an old woman living in a caravan in Brockenstoke, an oddity herself, always scrounging and engaging in petty theft, but like the farm and its guru, considered harmless.

There are no signs of violence on Charlotte Merton's body, and but the medical examiner finds an injection site where she couldn't have injected herself. This is murder--and soon DI Keith Tremayne and his sergeant, Clare Yarwood, are digging into the secrets of the farm and the village.

Tremayne continues to get older and tireder, and despite the best efforts of Yarwood and his own wife, Jean, his overall health isn't getting significantly better. At the same time, Yarwood has now been married for four months to Clive Grantley, mayor of Salisbury, and is gaining confidence both personally and professionally. Tremayne hates the idea of retirement, but is feeling more and more comfortable that he'll likely be leaving his job to a Clare Yarwood who is ready to take over.

Brockenstoke has an interesting array of characters, as always, and as always, the first death isn't the last death. As they dig into the Charlotte's relationships with those around her, at the farm and in the village, they uncover secrets no one wanted to share. Bess has a secret daughter, who lives in the village, and neither wants the truth of their connection revealed. The farm guru, Eustace Hampton, a former university professor, and his wife Miranda, a former supermodel, have secrets of their own, that might or might not be related to Charlotte's death. The failing pub owner Wally Plumpton, the spinster "church lady" Harriet Huxtable, and retired Col. Angus Campbell are all interesting characters.

As always from Strang,an absorbing and excellent police procedural. Recommended.

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

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