COFFIN UNDERGROUND by Gwendoline Butler


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A bizarre case for Scotland Yard's Superintendent John Coffin (Coffin on the Water), newly promoted and posted in his old Greenwich district, begins with the release from jail of violent Billy Egan, who's vowed revenge on his son-in-law/informer Terence Place. They've both disappeared, but it's Egan's murdered body that finally surfaces, and Place becomes the hunted killer. Coffin lives on Church Row, down the street from #22, owned by black diplomat Edward Pitt--and a bad luck house it is, according to Mrs. Brocklebank, housekeeper to Coffin and to #22. Pitt, wife Irene, and teen-aged daughter Nona have just returned from a long absence in New York, and Nona is renewing her friendship with young, orphaned Peter Fleming, who lives nearby with older sister Sarah. Meanwhile, the police search for Place gradually concentrates on the river front--where a seemingly idle ramble for peter and Nona ends in heroics for Peter, and capture and a deadly bullet for Place. Coffin has barely begun his report on these happenings when the bodies of the Pitt family are found, poisoned, around their dining-room table. There's yet another murder to come, though, before Coffin works his way through intimations of a dangerous game, recent history, and present relationships to a melodramatic encounter with the killer. An ominous, faintly gothic air hangs over all the machinations here, lending another dimension to this police procedural. The style's a bit fussy, the plotting dense and elaborate, but there's no boredom--Butler improves with each outing.

Pub Date: Aug. 25th, 1989
Publisher: St. Martin's