Walking into Murder is a cozy mystery with a strong setting and distinctive characters: wonderfully appealing amateur sleuth Laura Morland, a Professor of Gender Studies; a country manor full of British eccentrics, and the Cotswolds, site of Laura’s planned walking tour through England’s quaintest villages and most verdant countryside.
Still smarting from her husband’s unexpected (though not entirely unwelcome) defection, Laura accepts an invitation to teach a seminar on gender in London. First, she decides to test her new independence by walking the Cotswold Way. The walk soon takes unexpected turns. Lost in thick fog, Laura is accosted by a man who may or may not be a murderer but forces her to pose as his wife lest someone be killed. Escorted at gunpoint to Torrington Manor by an aristocratic Englishman, she is confronted by a formidable grande dame, an outrageously rude child and a houseful of other eccentrics. When she discovers a dead body that keeps changing its identity in one of the bedrooms, Laura realizes that someone in the Manor is a killer. But who? Everyone in this bizarre household seems to have multiple identities and multiple motivations, which means that any of them could be the villain.
Laura’s curiosity is almost as uncontrollable as her over-curly hair, and she tackles the mystery with abandon. The plot gets ever more tangled, the list of suspects longer, and Laura’s verbal battles with her abductor – to whom she is undeniably attracted – more pointed. She finds allies as well: Catherine, a free-spirited American runaway whose involvement leads to a breath-taking confrontation on the moors, Nigel, a teen-ager with multiple talents like mask-making and sculpture, and (possibly) a former theatrical dresser. A more dubious occasional ally is Laura’s alternately charming and irritating, and always baffling, would-be husband.
As the efforts of the villains to silence her become more frantic, Laura’s strategies to escape them become more ingenious. With her usual disregard for the escalating danger, she vows to outwit them all. And she does. In a final dramatic scene with an unexpected twist, she zeroes in on the murderer, or it might be more accurate to say the murderer zeroes in on her.