A short novel and four long stories, by veteran Forsyth (The Phantom of Manhattan, 1999, etc.).
The title piece, a British-style police procedural, moves brilliantly and richly through in Edmonton, Canada, where detective sergeant Jack Burns leads an investigation into the mugging of an older man brutally kicked in the street who dies after long days in a coma. Burns’s investigation turns up airtight evidence against two thugs, who are captured, held in custody for two or three weeks, but never brought to trial. A toweringly bright defense lawyer gets them off scot-free so that he can engineer a greater vengeance than the court’s. But a crucial plot point about the nameless victim isn’t made until after the murderers are freed. Did the lawyer pick up this essential piece of information from a police artist’s sketch of the unidentified victim? Well, “Vengeance is mine,” saith the Lord . . . maybe He told the lawyer. In “The Art of the Matter” (a cockney play on Graham Greene’s 1948 novel, The Heart of the Matter), stone-broke East End actor Trumpington “Trumpy” Gore, a spear carrier in a hundred British films who’s rarely had a line of more than three words, inherits a grimy 16th-century painting, has it appraised at an auction house, and gets cheated out of a million pounds. This leads to a revenge rip-off that calls for Woody Allen’s Zelig inserting actor Bob Hoskins into a dozen famous British costumers. “The Miracle” tells of a WWII visitation by Santa Caterina della Misericordia to the square in Siena where she was crucified 400 years ago; she now helps save hundreds of grievously wounded Germans and Allies, none of whom die. (But there’s a twist.) “The Citizen” turns on a drug bust on a Boeing 747, “Whispering Wind” on the lone survivor of Custer’s Last Stand.
Big Pro shows his stuff. Boffo.