A densely plotted British murder mystery, sixth in the series featuring Detective Inspector Joe Faraday.
Two separate plot lines, linked by the role and treatment of women, twist through this painstakingly authentic police procedural set on the southern coast of England, partly in Portsmouth (aka Pompey), partly on the Isle of Wight, which faces it across a narrow sea channel. Faraday, working for the Major Crimes unit, and sent to investigate a headless corpse washed up on a beach, runs across suspect Rob Pelly, an former army engineer with an explosive temper and complicated links to Bosnia, where he served. But the dead person could equally be the victim of a contract killing commissioned by rich and ruthless Maurice Wishart, who comes to the attention of another detective (and associate of Faraday’s), Paul Winter, working for the Portsmouth Crime Squad. Winter’s enquiries lead him to a high-class prostitute, Maddox, who subsequently seeks his protection—and a bit more—after Wishart beats her up. Hurley, who uses lots of local vernacular and charts every twist and turn of the investigations, switching back and forth between his two detectives, expects the reader to pay attention. Answers to the questions of who died, when and how, do come, but slowly, late and sometimes unsatisfactorily, like police work itself, after lots of sifting, interviewing and, of course, some shifting.
No shortcuts are taken in a solid crime novel that anchors itself in the less glamorous aspects of police work.