DCI Harry Brock and DS Dave Poole seek the killer who, not content to stab his enemy to death, squeezed his corpse into a wooden box and set it aflame.
Murdered Fulham artist Jack Harding specialized in nude figure paintings of the women he was sleeping with. His flatmate, model Sasha Lovell, and Dominic Finch, the photographer friend who introduced them, both had excellent reasons for wanting him dead. But a second murder tied to the Volvo Estate sedan that picked up what became Harding’s unofficial coffin from the woodworker’s persuades Brock and Poole that they’re dealing with a farrago of professional criminals: Italian imports wanted for murder back home, ex-lags who’d do anything to avoid going back to prison, self-identified scrap-metal dealers with colorful pasts, exotic dancers willing to provide convenient alibis along with the customary physical relief. The entire cast acts so suspiciously, in fact, that Brock arrests three of them for murder in three separate incidents on a single day. When at last a long list of felonies is assigned to interchangeable villains, one of Harding’s birds supplies the perfect punch line: “And to think that I lived with a murderer. Two, in fact.”
More lively and intricate than Brock and Poole’s recent cases (Lost or Found, 2008, etc.), though it’s hard to stay interested in exactly which malefactor ought to be convicted of what.