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Lionel Jagger, head of English at Mincliffe College in rural Worcestershire, is found dead in bed one morning, with his throat cut. Twenty-eight years old, erudite, talented, popular: an unlikely victim of murder. Inspector Wickfield and his assistant Sergeant Spooner trawl through his life, leaving no stone unturned. They interview widely, they travel extensively. The only result is bafflement, since all they meet have either no motive for murder or an unassailable alibi. In his despair at bringing the affair to a successful conclusion, the Chief Inspector hands the case to another detective team. Wickfield, however, despite this set-back, uncovers, with a flash of inspiration as clever as it is fortuitous, a devious and subtle plot that has deceived his colleagues.

The joy of this book, however, lies not just in the unravelling of the mystery, but in the politico-philosophical theories canvassed, the style, the dry humour – and yes, the erudition! As always in Falconer, the reader has access to all the information available to the investigating team, and the tiny slip-up that leads to unmasking the murderer is displayed for all to see – if you’re up to it! (Falconer fails to spot it; fortunately for us, the inspector is sharper.) Settle down in a comfortable chair and enjoy this latest offering from the pen of a master of the genre.

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