Dust on a Bowl of Roses
by Adele Vincent
Trafford Publishing

"... Julia knew that she would go to Hestercombe at the first opportunity. What she did not know was that she would make several visits to Hestercombe in the next few weeks and that she would find a body in the garden."

This murder mystery is an understated masterpiece. Julia Dobson is a woman in her 40s who is returning to her parents' home after multiple traumas. Shortly after her parents' recent deaths, her husband, a career officer in the British Foreign Service, is killed in a plane crash. Julia's survivor's guilt is augmented by creeping suspicions that her husband's death was the result of terrorist activity. As she begins to deal with her transition to widowhood, and to sort out whether or not to try to discover the truth about the crash, a fire-brigade administrator named Brian Dixon is found dead in the garden of Hestercombe near Taunton, England, after a town fair.

The suspects include a young girlfriend—to whom Brian may or may not have been engaged—her strange, potentially violent family members, a former love who is the mother of Brian's child, Brian's mother, and a former firefighter turned businessman who wanted Brian to join his business.

Julia becomes a major supporter of Brian's young girlfriend, Hilary. Hilary's behavior and actions arouse suspicion that she is not merely an innocent emotional victim of the violence. Julia's confusion about her own situation makes her alternately sympathetic to and skeptical of the girl.

Two minor characters who help Julia to deal with her distress are Julia's grown daughter, Emma, and her long-time friend Nigel, who has the potential to become more than a friend. He facilitates events that are significant to Julia's discoveries of multiple truths. Adele Vincent manages the plot expertly. The settings and characters suggest the traditional British murder mystery, which could have become sodden with stereotypes. Quite the opposite in fact: Vincent's mastery of plot and character development makes it an enjoyable novel into which the reader can sink in guilty pleasure.

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