A noir-drenched British import about a nameless cop chasing the killer of an unmourned victim.
With a flat wallet and shabby clothes, it’s clear that the corpse is a throwaway. Nobody cares except for a nameless detective sergeant in the London Metropolitan Police’s Department of Unexplained Deaths, a place where lost souls sometimes get justice. The victim has two posthumous pieces of luck: The nameless cop is unusually smart, and he’s famously obsessed. When the brutalized corpse is found half-buried in the shrubbery fronting the Word of God House, with all signs marking him as a derelict, Homicide wastes no time before delegating the case. In his patented, inexorable fashion, the sergeant goes to work, and four days later, the derelict has been unveiled as Charles Staniland, a writer who left behind a bonanza of pages and tapes, furnishing insights into a life that was often tortured and ultimately wasted. But Charlie’s words and thoughts resonate with the man investigating his murder. He listens, reads, empathizes and finally acts in a way that has practically nothing to do with law enforcement and everything to do with retribution.
Originally published in 1984 as the first of a series of six quintessentially bleak novels that faithfully evoke a world many sensitive souls will be pleased to avoid.