Helen West, a lawyer for London's Crown Prosecution Service, deals mostly with cases of rape and the often hapless victims she has to persuade to carry their accusations to court (A Clear Conscience, 1995, etc.). Here, Helen and her longtime lover Police Superintendent Geoffrey Bailey have finally set a marriage date--at the Registry Office--but Bailey has a serious problem of his own: Detective Sergeant Ryan, his protÇgÇ, whom he had nurtured to responsible maturity in the force and who's now a respected family man, has been accused of rape by Shelley Pelmore, a shopgirl with a taste for nightlife. Shelley's case is but one of several plaguing Helen and her trainee assistant, Rose Darvey. Anna Stirland, nurse at a women's clinic, is another, as is Brigid Connor, a woman addicted to taking long baths and avoiding the attentions of her husband. Mention of a handsome, bald-headed man runs like a thread through many of the victims' accounts, but when Shelley Pelmore is found dead in a local park, Ryan--suspended from the force but not in jail--seems the obvious killer, until Bailey, Helen, and one of the true killer's victims take matters into their own hands. Masterful suspense, although tempered by the author's exasperating tendency to explore every character's psyche at tedious length and to approach every crisis from an oblique angle. Downbeat all the way but, still, powerfully engrossing.