Dying Flames, By Robert Barnard

Mystery fans who haven’t sampled the wares of Robert Barnard are overlooking a delicacy. Barnard has been nominated eight times for the Edgar and has won Anthony, Agatha, and Macavity awards, so he rarely disappoints.

Graham Broadbent, a middle-aged author, attends a school reunion and is approached by an alluring 19-year-old woman — who promptly informs him she is his daughter. The startled Graham well remembers a few trysts with Peggy Somers, an actress; but this girl was conceived when he was out of the country. He does discover, however, he probably fathered another one of the actress’s grown children.

As Graham uncovers more about Peggy and her countless extra-marital flings, he begins to comprehend why so many people describe her as shallow, manipulative, self-serving, and deceptive. When Peggy leaves a note that she is going away with a new boyfriend, no one in the village alerts the police as such behavior has happened numerous times before. A fortnight later, her decaying corpse is found in a rowboat by two children. Can amateur detective Graham solve the mystery?

Barnard masterfully sets up the story with the victim and potential killers; the reader even has reasons to suspect the novel’s narrator of the crime. Though Dying Flames is a tad more “talky” than other Barnard mysteries, the novel displays his usual wit and panache.

4 Out of 4 Stars

Reviewed By: Mike Shinn, Academic Learning Center/Disability Services