Dr. Lance Elliot (Dying to Know, 2010) returns to deal with the ever-widening contagion of homicide that bids fair to decimate Croydon.
Nobody at Bensham Manor School thinks it greatly amiss when PE teacher Marlene Jeffries is bashed to death with a dumbbell. After all, it’s widely assumed that Thornton Heath physician Lance Elliot—whose father’s inamorata, Ada Clarke, is the head dinner lady at the school—attracts corpses wherever he goes. Inspector Masson duly arrests caretaker George Cotterill, whose dicky heart gives out while he’s in custody. Case closed—until Yvette Mangon, a math teacher at Bensham Manor, is stabbed to death with a compass. Yvette, it turns out, was much more than just Marlene’s landlady, and their unorthodox domestic arrangements may well have inflamed murderous passions. But then why would someone go on to drown biology teacher Jeremy Gillman and leave him with a frog in his mouth? The link between each dead teacher and the symbol of his or her subject matter seems promising. But when McCarthy, whose métier is grisly forensics (Soul Seeker, 2011, etc.), adds an accidental death, a suicide, a threatening ex-brother-in-law and whoever killed the pet rabbit of veterinarian Maxine Christy, Dr. Elliot’s girlfriend, you have to wonder if he’s asking you to accept a little too much of the cozy gardens of Bensham.
Though the locals complain that murder victims seem to pile up in Dr. Elliott’s wake, that’s no more than a convention of the genre. The real problem here is the number of independent malefactors working at cross-purposes to keep the population down.