What ought to be a break for the CID in their efforts to catch The Carpenter, a serial killer who tortures his female victims in truly horrific ways before letting them die -- the unaccountable survival of Dr. Thomas Meredith, who witnessed the crucifixion and murder of his companion Jilly Grant in numbing detail -- is foiled when Meredith retreats into apathy in an attempt to block out his awful memories. So forensic psychiatrist Natalie Vine is dispatched to his village outside Bristol to help tease out the evidence that will help the police stitch together their scant physical clues. Meantime, the killer, a barely noticeable hospital porter with a history of childhood abuse, methodically plots his next murder, unaware that the psychiatrist on his trail has an undocumented history of pathology -- traumatic childhood, abusive parents, a crippling lack of self-worth -- almost as impressive as his own. As Vine works feverishly to solve the mystery of why Meredith was left alive and pry open his repressed memories -- with some unexpectedly dramatic help from bis layabout neighbor and her little girl -- she's being stalked herself by a sadistic former lover who fancies he knows just what she wants. The close comparison that Jones (Thicker Than Water, 1994) dares with The Silence of the Lambs won't pass muster: his psychologizing of killer and detective is too pat, his prose too often overwrought. But the chills that course through this gothic freak show are all too real.