Still smarting from the anonymous news leak that pitted him against his superiors (One Under, 2015), DCI Bill Slider lands a case so ancient that it “won’t put anyone’s toes out of joint.” Well, yes and no.
Toby and Nicola Freeling, digging in their garden in the Trees Estate, have made an unwelcome discovery: the skeletonized remains of a young girl. Whoever she was—and it takes the Met quite a while to identify her as Amanda Jane Knight, a 14-year-old who went missing 25 years ago—her body has been at rest for so long that the Freelings can’t have been the ones who put here there. Since very few people are willing to take the initiative to bury a corpse in someone else’s yard in a bustling middle-class neighborhood, suspicion naturally falls on Ronald Knight, Amanda’s father, even though he’s been dead seven years. Try as he might to see Knight as the sexual abuser and killer of his daughter, however, Slider fails, though he awakens disturbing possibilities in the imagination of Knight’s widow, Margaret. The story of the murder, when it finally emerges from a killer who’s “mad as a ferret in a blender,” is considerably darker and more disturbing than you’d expect in a case for the ordinarily unflappable Slider. But as some consolation, the final chapter identifies the colleague who leaked the news of his earlier investigation to the press.
Slow to get started—the opening chapters seem driven by a determination to indicate what every single member of the Shepherd’s Bush constabulary is up to—but steadily increasing in momentum until the placidly ugly payoff: one of the author’s best.