Chief Inspector David Brock has nothing but bad memories of Sammy Starling, the petty crook he helped build a case against years ago. But now it seems that Sammy’s in legitimate trouble—his aristocratic young wife Eva has been kidnapped—and he’s afraid to go for help to Brock’s colleagues in the Serious Crimes Branch, whom he implicated in a bribery scheme in order to get himself off. So Brock, along with Sgt. Kathy Kolla, agrees to help Sammy himself. And in no time at all, this simple case of abduction has exploded in every imaginable direction. The ransom for Eva turns out to be an auction lot consisting of a single stamp depicting the young Queen Victoria, a stamp that may well fetch a million pounds when Cabot’s, the dealer handling the sale, puts it on the block. Sammy, a collector of similar stamps ever since he noticed the uncanny resemblance between the idealized queen and his young wife, succeeds in submitting the winning bid for the stamp. But nothing from that point on goes according to plan, from the ransom drop to the recovery of the victim, and soon everyone involved in the case is under suspicion in an ever-widening net of forgery, fraud, and murder. Since the everyone this time includes Brock himself, the wily old fox finds himself sidelined, and Kathy transferred to the Fraud Squad, where she’ll have to survive on her own considerable wits.
The third and finest case so far for this underrated pair of coppers (The Malcontenta, 2000, etc), and the most satisfyingly twisty mystery of the year.