The financial pinch has come to the Metropolitan Police’s Homicide and Serious Crime Squad, along with all manner of cutting-edge technology that’s supposed to allow the police to do more with less. And it would be hard to say which of the two is the bigger problem.
Cmdr. Fred Lynch is furious that DI Kathy Kolla and DS Mickey Schaeffer have been called to the death scene of Vicky Hawke, who must have gotten a fatal dose of carbon monoxide accidentally from the heater on her narrowboat. Nor is he mollified by DCI David Brock’s feeling that if Kolla thinks the death looks suspicious, it probably is. Not even the news that Vicky Hawke isn’t at all who she seems, or that her sister was killed in an even more suspicious hit-and-run accident last year, encourages him to give Kolla and Brock (Chelsea Mansions, 2011, etc.) the green light. Instead, Lynch seems determined to keep every member of Homicide and Serious Crime focused on Operation Intruder, devoted to the capture of Jack Bragg, a vicious gang leader who fled England to avoid prosecution but has now been drawn back home by his wife’s infidelity. (His decision to stake out Kolla as a double for Patsy Bragg leads to the first time in the case, though hardly the last, that Kolla incurs grievous bodily harm.) So, naturally, Kolla and Brock proceed on their own, questioning the owners of neighboring boats docked in Regent’s Canal, investigating the research of the dead sister, checking hundreds of digitized files and miles of video footage, and linking the murder of the woman calling herself Vicky Hawke to the return of Jack Bragg.
The complications may be far-fetched, but Maitland’s ability to root them deeply in the psychology of his characters and spring surprises that seem as inevitable as they are unexpected make for another deeply satisfying case.