Hall, who deserves a medal for valor in picking her fights, wades into the troubled waters of the abortion debate when a 13-year-old who’s just had her pregnancy terminated is terminated herself by a gunshot as she emerges from Bradfield’s May Anderson Hospital. What would anybody have against young Dana Smith, whose four doting brothers, all strapping, loutish sons of Yorkshire, are full of murderous hatred for the unknown male who got her in the family way? Or—since she was just passing well-known abortion provider Stephen Fenton-Green when she was shot—was she only an accidental victim? Fenton-Green certainly has his share of enemies inside May Anderson as well as outside. The virtual siege of his fertility clinic by activist Dorothy Knight and her cohorts in Saving Lives for the Lord has intensified with the advent of famous Des Moines rabble-rouser Rev. Edgar Burridge, who seems to have learned his American diction (“Well . . . I guess . . . I don’t reckon”) from a close study of Agatha Christie’s 1920s fiction. Closer to home, Fenton-Green has reason to worry about an anonymous whistle-blower determined to discredit his fertility research to Bradfield Gazette reporter Laura Ackroyd, whose decision to set up housekeeping with not-quite-divorced DCI Michael Thackeray (Skeleton at the Feast, 2002, etc.) has provoked some serious domestic problems of her own.
Burridge apart, Americans should find Hall’s grim British take on abortion rights, well, plumb fascinating—certainly a lot more powerful than her cluttered plot, which still trails loose ends on the last page.