Death in the Family, Jill McGown, Ballantine, $22.95.
Jill McGown - unbeknownst to far too many readers - keeps getting better and better. In her newest mystery, series characters Lloyd (the avid reader will finally discover Lloyd's first name) and Judy Hill are the parents of a new baby, and on the road to marriage. Meanwhile, the town of Stansfield where both are detectives with the local CID, is undergoing a crime wave. Almost simultaneously an infant is kidnapped and a woman is found murdered and her live-in lover badly injured. While McGown has the gift that all great modern mystery writers share - that of vivid characterization - she shares with her golden age predecessors another gift: the gift of a tight plot and a tighter circle of suspects.
Like the late, great Christianna Brand, McGown presents the reader with a circle of suspects, and then proceeds to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that none of them could have done it. What makes McGown so wonderful, though, is that at the same time she's gotten the reader to care a great deal about each of the characters in question, so that no matter what the answer, the solution will be a disturbing one. She's written several of my very favorite mysteries of the past few years - Plots and Errors and Picture of Innocence to name two - and Death in the Family is another to add to that bravura list.
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