Picks and Pans Review: Murder Times Two

updated 04/16/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/16/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Haughton Murphy

Fans of Angela Lansbury's series Murder, She Wrote—to say nothing of vintage TV detective Barnaby Jones—are invited to pull up a comfortable chair: Reuben Frost, septuagenarian sleuth, operates in a world untouched by blood and gore. In fact, the crimes of Murder Times Two take place in a drawing room—and the butler is a prime suspect.

When Tobias Vandermeer, billionaire lush, collapses on the floor in front of the members of his wife's elite reading club, the book under discussion is Vanity Fair, and the themes of financial lust and manipulation brush uncomfortably close to many in the room. So does the murder: Tobias, it is quickly determined, has been poisoned, apparently by one of his guests. Working to clear his own name, retired lawyer Reuben puts his newly purchased personal computer—and unerring instincts—to work.

Another murder will occur before the case is solved, and in his probing, Reuben provides a charmingly unsavvy tour of Manhattan, from SoHo art galleries to East Side banquettes. Though one might wish his treatment of his former ballerina wife, Cynthia, were a bit less peremptory, he is 77, and some allowances might be made. This is a gentle, luxurious mystery that nonetheless packs a wallop at the end. (Simon and Schuster, $17.95)

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