Butler (Albion Walk, 1982, etc.) sets her latest in postwar London of 1946, sharply evoking the bombed, still-rationed city of the period and introducing detective-constable John Coffin--eager to make a career with Scotland Yard and now assigned to the Greenwich district with fellow rookie Alec Rowley, under Inspector Tom Banbury. Both Coffin and Rowley are attracted to Stella Pinero, a promising actress who has just joined the Theatre Royal repertory company, run by old pros Joan and Albie Delaney--who send Stella to live in Angel House, owned by Rachel Esthart, one-time theater great, now a semi-recluse in the wake of long-ago personal tragedy. Then, when the butchered body of young teacher Lorna Beezley is pulled from the river, there seems to be a connection to Rachel--but when two more similarly mutilated victims appear over the weeks, Coffin begins to have doubts. So, kept on the investigation's far edge by Banbury and other superiors, Coffin sleuths on his own, pondering the significance of black-market shoes; his conversations with the river men; leads provided by nosy, precocious schoolboy Paul Shanks; and a spill of wine in the restaurant run by ex-fellow soldier Vic Padovani. Tension builds slowly but firmly in a cleverly plotted, carefully crafted story that sometimes meanders in a way that seems artless but isn't. Solid fare for fans of the leisurely British traditional.