Chief Inspector Charlie Woodend has more than his share of help and more than his share of problems as he tracks a killer who’s been preparing for Guy Fawkes Night by stashing corpses in the bonfires.
When it comes to investigating the deaths of Betty Stubbs and Lucy Tonge—two lonely, unattractive women of a certain age—Woodend’s helpers include Dr. Shastri, the competent new police surgeon whose sense of irony is as sharp as her scalpel, and Dexter Bryant, owner of the Mid-Lancs Courier, who’s willing to tailor his coverage of the bonfire murders to suit the local constabulary. Which puts him in another league from Elizabeth Driver, ace reporter from the London Daily Globe who treks up to what even she considers “the arse end of nowhere” to stick it to her old rival. Already miffed at a sexual rebuff from Woodend (A Death Left Hanging, p. 720, etc.), Liz is outraged when Bryant’s cold shoulder leaves her 0-for-2. So when she finds former DI Bob Rutter embroiled in a heart-wrenching affair with new DI Monika Paniatowski, it gives her just the ammunition she needs to turn Woodend’s two greatest assets into his two biggest liabilities. But it’s Driver’s second discovery that threatens to derail Woodend’s investigation for good by pointing the finger at an innocent man.
Spencer’s careful balance of menace from without and within makes her latest a standout among her reliably entertaining procedurals.