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Death Duties    by Phil Lovesey order for
Death Duties
by Phil Lovesey
Order:  USA  Can
HarperCollins, 1999 (1998)
Hardcover, Paperback
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

This convoluted psychological thriller opens to the reader's horror with an apparently normal seven year old girl who puts her veterinarian father to permanent sleep using his own instruments. It then fast forwards to a taxi driver who has just lost his lover and his job in one stroke and to a nursing home, in which the more difficult patients go to heaven a little early.

An old lady is murdered in her own home in Chelmsford and left with garish makeup applied with little skill. Detective Chief Inspector Frank Davies arrests the taxi driver, the obvious suspect. However, they share past history, in particular the driver's marriage to Ruth Jenkins, an ex-policewoman and old colleague of Frank's. She solicits helps from another old friend and ex-cop, Felix Pengelly.

Another death follows with another made-up corpse, and public fear of the Christmas Killer grows. A handkerchief discovered at the scene implicates Ruth and ties in past events when both she and Felix were young and inexperienced constables. They investigate and uncover more horror and more deaths.

This is the first effort by the son of award-winning crime writer Peter Lovesey, and very well done (the only false note was the improbability of a woman of Ruth's character being married for so long to a weak ex-criminal like Bert). The suspense builds steadily to the ending, which leaves the reader wondering who was the real victim.

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