NOVEL - PLAYING FOR THE ASHES

When country milkman Martin Snell makes his usual delivery to fifteenth-century Celandine Cottage one fine spring morning in Kent, he expects to be greeted by the cottage's seductive tenant, Gabriella Patten, not the ugly remains of a fire pointing to murder.

A burnt-out chair, a peculiar pattern of soot on the walls, an asphyxiated corpse, two footprints, and a collection of discarded cigarette butts bring Detective Inspector Thomas Lynley and his partner Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers out of their London territory and into conflict with the local investigator whose turf they are invading. Treading carefully, they begin investigating the ripples of shock spreading outward from the crime: from Gabriella Pattern's husband, who knows of his wife's faithlessness and declares himself completely indifferent, to the estranged wife of a member of the national cricket team whose hopes for a reconciliation with her husband have been permanently smashed; from a former lover of Gabriella who has sworn her off to save his marriage, to an angry teenage boy whose holiday with his father was canceled at the crook of a mistress's finger; from a wealthy older widow whose influence has allowed a much younger man to live his dream of playing cricket, to a former prostitute faced with a devastating choice in the wake of a murder whose victim she has never met and yet whose presence has long shadowed her life.

As all of England, as well and the magnetic world of national cricket, discovers itself reeling from the shock of this particular crime, Lynley and Havers find themselves working on the most frustrating case of their careers: the perfect crime. When in an act of desperation Lynley breaks department rules to flush out the killer, he risks being pulled from the case and jeopardizes his career with New Scotland Yard.

In Playing for the Ashes, a deft study of human nature and a crime with too much evidence result in a powerful work of fiction that pulls the reader into a fully created world to explore the dark side of passion and self-delusion.

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