The Couple at the Table

The lingering challenge in the engrossing The Couple at the Table by Sophie Hannah (Closed Casket; The Monogram Murders; The Other Woman's House) isn't who had a motive to fatally stab Jane Brinkwood at her father's couples-only Tevendon Estate Resort, but who did not have a reason to murder the vile, entitled woman. Frequently called "a nasty piece of work," Jane threatened every guest and staff member, accusing them of sending her menacing notes while she honeymooned. Jane was most disturbed by a note that told her to beware of the couple at the next table. But which table? Seating wasn't assigned and the tables mysteriously had been moved during the night. Jane saved most of her venom for guest Lucy Dean, whose ex-husband, William Gleave, left her for Jane two weeks after Lucy gave birth to their daughter. Lucy, despite maintaining that she is now happily engaged to the kind Pete Shabani, writes letters to the other guests, trying to ferret out Jane's killer. The case consumes curmudgeonly Detective Constable Simon Waterhouse and his socially aware wife, Sergeant Charlie Zailer, making another appearance in this 12th entry in the Zailer & Waterhouse Mystery series. The two detectives were vacationing at the British estate at the time of the murder and had a ringside seat to Jane's tantrums.

Hannah's expert plotting elevates The Couple at the Table, which works well as a locked-room mystery. Her dexterity with sly humor, mostly centered on Simon's personality (he really hates the resort's monogrammed towels), adds the perfect levity. An Agatha Christie-esque gathering of the suspects provides a tidy denouement. --Oline H. Cogdill, freelance reviewer

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