A schoolboy’s grisly discovery in South London takes DCI David Brock on a most unsentimental journey into a case he fumbled long ago.
After a pair of shoplifting drug addicts with long arrest jackets are found executed in a garage at the end of Cockpit Lane, nerdy Adam Nightingale can’t resist boosting his status in school by searching the area for a mysterious something he calls Brown Bread. As it happens, he finds something even more spectacular: a jawbone from a human skull—one of two that Brock’s Major Inquiry Team finds buried at the site. (The third skeleton lacks even a skull.) When a telltale clue dates the three earlier murders to the night of the 1981 Brixton Riots, Brock dreams of revisiting his 25-year-old failure to jail crime lord Edward “Spider” Roach and the three sons who’ve inherited the family business by implicating them in the murders. But the Roaches are as slippery as Martin Connell, the ex-lover of DS Kathy Kolla who’s defending them. Every strike against them, whether it’s spearheaded by Brock or by Kathy’s latest beau, loose-cannon Special Services DI Tom Reeves, backfires, leaving the Metropolitan Branch and a crusading Jamaican-born MP covered with mud. The case looks hopeless unless Spider and Sons somehow overreach themselves . . .
Though Maitland (No Trace, 2006, etc.) is never less than sensitive and professional, Brock and Kolla’s delayed-action ninth case is their most routine.