Hewing to her artful, controlled mix of the police procedural with the whodunnit, Simpsonís 14th Inspector Luke Thanet mystery, Once Too Often, mirrors the first, The Night She Died (1981). Simpsonís pattern is to make the victim the heart of the book and straightaway dead so that Thanet must reconstruct the characterís emotional past. Tightly, meticulously crafted, the novels are more likely to elicit aftershock than stun on the first reading. The unexpectedness of the murder scene, its frequent homeliness, the calm tone of the investigation, Thanetís self doubts, the interweaving of his family and their quotidian concerns, make the murder somehow more shocking - in the manner applauded by W. H. Auden - than a grittier treatment. The psychology of the characters rings true; their buried secrets contrast with the openness of Thanetís relationships and especially with his fortunate marriage. Last Seen Alive (1985) was recognised with the CWAís Silver Dagger Award.
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