Four years after cold-blooded Gregory North killed two guards during a bank robbery in Ilford, Chief Inspector David Brock of Scotland Yard is still hunting him down the most unlikely byways. Now a grisly, apparently unrelated crime brings Brock a new opportunity. Several days after Kerri Vlasich’s mother finally reports the 14-year-old missing, the girl’s shattered body is found under circumstances that suggest she may have been killed at Silvermeadow, the gigantic Essex shopping mall where she worked serving pancakes. Coincidentally, a witness to the Ilford robbery claims to have spotted North recently in the stuffed-animal shop where she works. Taking advantage of the Hornchurch Street station’s request for help from the Yard, and putting his favorite sergeant, Kathy Kolla, to work on the case, Brock piggybacks his search for North onto the investigation into Kerri’s murder. His task is complicated not only by the girl’s troubled relations with her German father and the uncle who works in the mall, and by her newly acquired fondness for using ketamine—and perhaps for turning a profit on it as well—but by the sprawling mall’s army of security officers, its miles of subterranean tunnels and tapes from cameras, and its magnetic attraction for countless kids who have no better place to call home.
The two lovingly detailed cases eventually come together with a satisfying snap, though without the ingenuity or inevitability that attend Kathy and Brock at their very best (The Chalon Heads, 2001, etc.). Not even the most hard-bitten readers, however, are likely to forget the monstrous terrarium world of Silvermeadow.