Twenty years after a hit-and-run accident sends the driver into a downward spiral of remorse, retribution comes calling, though not on her.
Driving home alone through Shropshire late one night, Leah Porter hits a newspaper boy whose bicycle swerves in front of her car, then disposes of the body. Stricken with guilt, Leah goes into a deep depression that ends in her suicide. Two decades later, her neighborhood of Rickmansworth is in the news again when her friend Sarah Clement, an alcoholic author who’s never duplicated the success of her brilliant first novel, exits her houseboat via water and is found drowned in the canal. DI Frank Kavanagh and his lover, Jane Salt (Small Vices, 1998, etc.), swing sedately into action, but they’re too late to prevent a second murder when bed-and-breakfast owner Terence May’s government-provided new identity isn’t enough to protect him from one of his former colleagues in an art-fraud scheme. What connects one murder to the other—or, for that matter, to farmer Philip Ellis’s romance with his Polish farmhand Katrina, to which the tale repeatedly drifts back? Don’t hold your breath to find out.
Armstrong doesn’t write well enough to make his individual plot lines compelling; his coppers are ciphers, and his final surprise is no surprise at all. Fans of British procedurals are better served elsewhere.