The plot of this sixth book in the series is also strong on family and friends: when a tough judge, Justine Blackwell, suddenly softens up after 30 years on the bench and supports a prisoners' rights group, attacks from her three angry daughters make her doubt her own mental competence. Judge Blackwell turns to an elderly teacher and mentor, Hilda McCourt, for advice. McCourt is staying with her friend Kilbourn when they both get the news that Judge Blackwell has been battered to death in a public park. A group of ex-prisoners who had been incarcerated by the judge seem to have reasons to want Blackwell dead, but so do the Lear-like daughters, especially a former rock star and a discredited psychiatrist.
In addition to helping McCourt sift through the evidence, and then having to deal with another brutal attack, Joanne is also caught up in the psychological problems of the fragile 15-year-old nephew of her policeman lover. In all the turmoil, she still has time to become a grandmother, a scene described with as much honest emotion and artistry as the rest of Bowen's engrossing book. Other Kilbourn outings include Deadly Appearances, A Colder Kind of Death, and A Killing Spring. --Dick Adler