Will Goldacre is a troubled young man who's afflicted with a deformed ear and a condition that seems to resemble Tourette's Syndrome - he sometimes vocalizes curse words and inappropriate phrases. After a break-up and attempted reconciliation with his girlfriend Lily, Will commits suicide by jumping off a cliff. This devastates Will's family, especially his mother Caroline Goldacre.
Caroline copes with her grief (in part) by working as an assistant to well-known feminist author Clare Abbott. When Clare dies suddently during a book tour, the police take an interest. DS Barbara Havers of Scotland Yard, on the outs with the Detective Superintendent because she causes trouble and doesn't follow orders, desperately wants the case. So - hoping Barbara can redeem herself - her mentor, DI Thomas Lynley arranges for Barbara to work the case with DS Winston Nkata.
Since Caroline Goldacre was in the adjoining hotel room when Clare died she comes under intense scrutiny. It turns out Caroline's quite a character. She's a liar; a manipulator; an interfering mother; a horrible mother-in-law; an indifferent wife, a jealous friend; and so on. Then - when Clare's editor Rory (whom Caroline disliked) - is attacked, things start to look very suspicious indeed.
This is a traditional detective book, with Barbara, Winston, and Lynley questioning witnesses, getting search warrants, collecting evidence, putting together clues, etc....in an attempt to uncover the murderer.
There are a large array of addtional characters in the story, including Caroline's cheating husband Alistair and his lover; Caroline's son Charlie and his estranged wife India; Scotland Yard secretary Dorothea Harriman - who's determined to find tomboyish Barbara Havers a boyfriend (this is pretty hilarious); Lynley's lady friend Dairdre, a zoo veterinarian; psychological assistance dog Arlo (who's cute and sweet); and more.
I enjoyed the first two-thirds of the tale, which moved along at a brisk pace. Then the action seemed to slow down and the book became a bit of a slog. Some additonal problems I had with the story: an unnecessarily long and detailed description of women being beaten and raped (and one being murdered); too many uncomfortabLe scenes of Lynley pursuing Dairdre - with whom he seems to have minimal chemistry; excessive information about Caroline's unfaithful husband and his paramour; ditto India and her new boyfriend. Also, certain aspects of Caroline's behavior were over-the-top and not credible (to me) and the book's conclusion wasn't 100 % satisfying.
Still, I did like the detective/investigative parts of the book and got a kick out of the friendship/banter between Barbara and Winston. Barbara even 'cooked' Winnie a meal, which was quite entertaining. All in all, an okay addition to the series.