Mother Knight

Over six novels, Natasha Cooper’s Willow King has gone through more evolutions than the animals on the Galapogos Islands. Once a woman with a secret life — British civil servant by day and glamorous romance novelist on the weekends — she has since shed the bureaucracy, wedded a police officer, and opens “The Drowning Pool” by giving birth to her first child, at age 44, while her obstetrician is being unkindly murdered four doors down the hall.

Spending a week in the hospital gives her time to investigate, and she soon uncovers a passel of suspects, including an administrator who had been at loggerheads with the doctor over budget cuts, the wife of a wealthy businessman the doctor was having an affair with, and a nurse whom he had fired.

The solution, however, seems marred by a motive and suspect tossed in from left field, and “The Drowning Pool” is wet-blanketed by King’s worries over her responsibilities toward the baby, her relations with a husband who objects to her investigations, and the demands on what once was her private and minutely controlled life. As an outrageously successful novelist who has, as a friend observed, a “stunning house, perfect and loyal housekeeper, health, brains, love, Superintendent Worth to attend to your every whim and now a baby as well,” it’s hard to feel sympathetic toward a woman who wonders if she is losing her identity. Most mothers I know would risk that and more to have a full-time housekeeper around to change the diapers.