Poor Constable Naomi Anstruther. Asst. Chief Constable Iles and Det. Chief Supt. Harpur want her to go undercover, but the cover they want her under is distinctly see-through. All Naomi’s fellow officers, her frantic civilian boyfriend, every local lowlife, a jittery preacher from the Church of the Free Gospel, and even Harpur’s teenage daughters have sniffed out the dodge. Meanwhile, Mansel Shale and Panicking Ralph Ember, who boss the drug operations Naomi is supposed to penetrate, have been counter-scheming for weeks. You’d think all this publicity might give Naomi pause, particularly after a brace of nasty throat-cuttings, surely meant to convey a message. The victims were drug-dealers, the perps members of a ferocious London syndicate noted for taking sanguinary action on behalf of enlarging market share. But Naomi soldiers on, though her reasons are never made sufficiently clear. In the meantime, the infighting between crotchety Chief Constable Lane and subversive Iles—a mainstay of the 16-novel saga (Lovely Mover, 1999, etc.)—continues, though with less than the customary bite. Wicked Harpur, too, has mellowed. Though still with a taste for the delectable (much, much younger Denise, who —makes him feel safe”), he seems virtually tamed. Harpur and Iles push ahead with their gambit, but it all seems as if they—re replaying somebody else’s game. Driving pace and a hard-edged wit once made this series irresistible, but the pace has slackened and the wit has softened. Likewise, unfortunately, Harpur and Iles.