An ex–vice cop is compelled to investigate when a string of disappearances, culminating in murder, strikes too close to home.
After 18 years with the West Yorkshire Police, Vince McNulty has been abruptly fired for misconduct. A firestorm of bad press hasn’t helped. McNulty now spends most days watching old movies and getting erotic massages, at first on the outskirts of his former stomping grounds. But so aimless is his life and so deep his addiction that he starts patronizing the same parlors he used to bust as a vice cop in Leeds and its vicinity: the Northern X chain. Unbeknownst to McNulty, girls from several of these clubs have recently vanished. The mystery takes a darker turn when the corpse of one masseuse is discovered next to an oil drum. CCTV footage depicts the Vauxhall Astra of McNulty, whose past difficulties are well-known to the Ecclesfield Station’s weary Inspector Tynan, the man working the case. Unfortunately for him, McNulty has been disorderly in more than one parlor of late. He hooks up with petty criminal Donkey “Donk” Flowers to learn the word on the street. They walk back to McNulty’s flat, where they find another body, and Donk lights a match before McNulty can tell him that he smells gas. And that’s only half the story.
A retired cop himself, Campbell crafts a familiar plot in his sixth novel (Blue Knight, White Cross, 2009, etc.). But every detail feels authentic, and his dark, muscular prose suggests the best pulp writers of the ’50s.