If Eton Crop (1999) was the slack-paced setup, this is the payoff come to a rolling boil and served up with James's strident sense of drama. Still in place at the fashionable Eton, undercover P.C. Naomi Anstruther barely escapes with her life when a Harpur-and-Iles–planned drug intercept fails, the bad guys get away, and two of her former lovers on the scene are killed. Esme, also an ex-lover of one of the fallen, nudges Naomi to seek vengeance, but before Naomi is onboard, Esme's been tortured and killed. Meanwhile, warring drug factions queue up to bump each other off, make Naomi’s quietus, and, if possible, come to some sort of accommodation with Chief Supt. Harpur that will allow the winning goons to stay in business. Will Lincoln W. Lincoln (a.k.a. Lovely Mover) outlast Panicking Ralph Ember? Will Noisy Graham's restaurant supplant the now déclassé Eton? Will Harpur’s acidic boss Iles ever stop tweaking Harpur for having slept with his wife? Before Naomi can return to duty, she must be vetted by loony police psychiatrist Rockmain, whose scheme to get her reinstated is as cuckoo as the dithering machinations of Chief Constable Mark Lane. As alliances are reshaped with each thud of a corpse, the uninitiate will need a flow chart to sort through the debris dirtying up the Cardiff countryside, now polluted with lowlifes imported from London, Manchester, and Wales.
James, who excels at verbal-slanging matches and tetchy characters, pumps up the venom here. To be read with your back firmly resting against the wall.