DOROTHY SIMPSON – The Night She Died. Scribner’s, hardcover, 1981. Bantam, paperback, 1985. Poisoned Pen Press, trade paperback, 1998, First published in the UK by Michael Joseph, hardcover, 1981.

   In the world of crime fiction, there seems to be an unwritten law that a new private eye has to have a gimmick, a little quirk of behavior, perhaps, that will help him (or her) stand out from all the others. There is a similar theory for policemen, and it holds that because of the nature of their job, they need humanizing: a loving family, perhaps. Teething babies. Bad backs.

   Inspector Thanet is lucky. He has all three.

   His current case involves a murdered woman. Who killed her? Her husband, with whom she was seeing a marriage counselor? Her thwarted, amorous boss? The determined ex-suitor?

   Thanet’s investigation also takes him back into the past, over his sergeant’s objections, to dig up an unsolved murder the victim may have witnessed as a child. The problem is that looking into this old case is as dry and uninteresting as poking around in a pile of dusty bones, and it’d be awfully easy to give the story up as routine right here.

   And this you shouldn’t do, as Simpson has a terrific surprise in store for the persevering reader who sticks it out to the end. I suspect there’ll be a good many people who’ll never reach it. Exquisitely plotted, and ploddingly told — a sad combination.

— Reprinted from The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 5, No. 5, Sept-Oct 1981.


      The Inspector Thanet series —

1. The Night She Died (1981)
2. Six Feet Under (1982)
3. Puppet for a Corpse (1983)
4. Close Her Eyes (1984)
5. Last Seen Alive (1985)
6. Dead On Arrival (1986)

7. Element of Doubt (1987)
8. Suspicious Death (1988)
9. Dead By Morning (1989)
10. Doomed to Die (1991)

11. Wake the Dead (1992)
12. No Laughing Matter (1993)
13. A Day for Dying (1995)

14. Once Too Often (1998)
15. Dead and Gone (1999)