The Peculiar Crimes Unit faces its greatest challenge: discovering who killed one of its own number as the hours tick down to the PCU’s certain destruction.
For years now, pathologist Oswald Finch has been talking of retirement. But shortly after he finally puts in his papers, he leaves the job in a most unexpected way, meeting his death in a murderous assault in his locked mortuary. The timing couldn’t be more unfortunate, for PCU founders Arthur Bryant and John May (Ten Second Staircase, 2006, etc.) have gone off to a spiritualists’ convention; bean-counter Oskar Kasavian has arranged for a scandalous Viennese princess to visit the Bayham Street facility with the express purpose of embarrassing the PCU out of existence; and the person best positioned to head the investigation is forensic scientist Giles Kershaw, who became the principal suspect the minute he was turned down for Finch’s job. Wait, it gets worse. Following Bryant’s ancient road map to Dartmoor, he and May get stuck in a blizzard along with a hundred other cars, one of them containing a woman and her son on the run from the killer stuck close behind them. If the constant crosscutting from one crisis to another doesn’t make you deliciously dizzy, Bryant and May’s obligatory discourses on one arcane subject after another will.
Fowler caps the year’s most inventive and generously plotted mystery by pulling three rabbits from his hat. Eat your heart out, John Dickson Carr.