MICHAEL GILBERT – The Killing of Katie Steelstock. Harper & Row, US, hardcover, 1980. Penguin, US, paperback, 1981. Published previously in the UK as Death of a Favourite Girl (Hodder & Stoughton, hardcover, 1980).

   As a kind of bonus, we get two stories in one. Katie’s death is the obvious reason for the rather dry murder investigation that follows. What we also get, and what fans of legal manipulations and maneuverings like myself will find of much greater interest, is an inside look at how the defense for the accused goes about making plans for the ensuing trial.

   Part of their strategy has little to do with the case itself, consisting instead of weighing and working on the personal stranegths and idiosyncrasies of the man from Scotland Yard placed in charge of the investigation.

   Katie herself was a TV star. After her death, and then only, we discover the two sides of her. For the most part, the village folk of Hannington saw her as their fair-headed girl. In London they knew her as an ambitious conniver with little she was unwilling to do to maintain her drive to the top.

   That this is a mystery novel with some emphasis on character should be abundantly clear. Even so, the ending is one that may come as something of a surprise. A goodly number of loose ends are left undone, and unmitigated coincidence looms large in the overall scheme of things.

–Reprinted in slightly revised form from The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 4, No. 5, Sept-Oct 1980. Previously published in the Hartford Courant.