Exiled for a year from the Metropolitan Police to the Family and Juvenile Crime unit in the Kent County CID, Detective Sergeant Kathy Kolla thinks she’d like nothing better than a juicy sudden death. She couldn’t be more wrong, as she learns when her punitive supervisor, Inspector Ric Tanner, sends her to the Stanhope Naturopathic Clinic in Edenham to investigate the suicide (or was it an accidental case of sexual asphyxia?) of shady physiotherapist Alex Petrou. With the help of a quick-witted pathologist, Kathy soon realizes that Petrou’s hanging was neither accident nor suicide. But since one of the Stanhope patients on the scene is Tanner’s boss, Deputy Chief Constable Bernard Long, who’s uncomfortably tight with clinic director Dr. Stephen Beamish-Newell, her probing and digging are written off as meddling and harassment, and she’s pulled off the case. In frustration, she goes to her old mentor, Chief Inspector David Brock, whose plan to make the ultimate sacrifice by going undercover at Stanhope gives Maitland (The Marx Sisters, 1999) a chance to catalogue the clinic’s round of fasting, acupuncture, osteopathy, and all-natural goodies. But Brock, despite the growing intimacy with patients and staff his grueling regime earns him, fares even worse at Stanhope than Kathy did; Kathy gets suspended from the force; and their only hope is that the third time will be the charm for the improbably illegal tactics they’re forced to borrow from Americans like Dirty Harry.
The ever-more-loose-cannon-coppers structure lends the escalating revelations about Alex Petrou and his employers a depth, bite, and nuance that are well worth the inevitable implausibility.