The actress Bette Davis famously said that ‘old age ain’t no place for sissies’. Neither is Jessica Mann’s twenty-second novel, which tackles old age and dying – often slowly and painfully – head on. Mann, longtime reviewer of crime fiction for Literary Review, is also the award-winning author of many crime novels in her own right. While her novel falls within the genre in as much as a crime is at its centre, death, as the title suggests, is its predominant theme. The sombreness of the subject is partly mitigated by the likeability of her heroine, Tamara Hoyland, whom Mann resurrects from her early novels to investigate a suspected murder, a missing doctor and the deaths of several residents in a care home.
Tamara, once a fearless undercover intelligence agent, is, twenty years on, an archaeologist, married with children and leading a genteel life in Oxford. When her father-in-law, a doctor like her husband, dies and her brother-in-law, Euan Hope, suddenly appears on the scene, she is drawn again into a world of