Danger takes a thousand shapes for women in Butler's mythical Second City of London. Years after her childhood testimony identified Willie and Lizzie Creeley as murderers, Annie Briggs still lives in fear of the Creeley family. Now that Willie's stroke has won parole for him and Lizzie, Annie's terror, never far beneath the surface, is renewed with a shock when Creeley grandson Eddie drifts into South London. Has Eddie strangled and smothered ballerina Marianna Manners and Annie's trusting sister Didi to avenge his relatives, or on commission from Marianna's ``friend'' Job Titus, an MP even more independent than his party label would suggest? Before he can close the case of the dead women with the bitten-down fingernails, John Coffin, chief commander of the Second City Police Force (Cracking Open a Coffin, 1993, etc.) will have to establish whether the killer is the wraithlike ``Charley'' mentioned in Didi's notebook--the same man, perhaps, who's been watching both Annie and Coffin's own bride, actress Stella Pinero- -and cope as well with the disappearances of Annie's tenant and of his own well-heeled sister. An impossible tangle of mysteries, it seems, until a third murder throws them into unexpected relief.... By turns haunting, baffling, and breathlessly abrupt, another satisfyingly rich entry in this offbeat, underrated series.