Chief Commander John Coffin, of London’s Second City (Coffin’s Game, 1999, etc.), has his hands full this time out. The dismembered body of undercover detective Harry Seton, on the trail of an illegal drug ring, has been found, and discovered in his files by colleague Ed Saxon is a note saying “ASK COFFIN” that leads Saxon to do just that, to no immediate effect. More urgently, Coffin, with Inspector Paddy Devlin and Sergeant Tony Littleton, is trying to solve the disappearance, over a two-month period, of four preteen boys, all of whom had some connection to the police force even before they became crime statistics. Now the body of Archie Chimmer, son of the police surgeon, has been found on the site of an abandoned factory, a woman’s severed leg beside him. The other boys are found soon after in a common grave. Meanwhile, Belle Diver reports her policeman husband Jeff missing. Fortunately, Coffin’s actress wife Stella Pinero has returned from the US, providing some comfort Coffin will sorely need as he meets one obstacle after the next before his cases are resolved.
The puzzles have a promisingly bizarre edge, but their narration is choppy, confusing, and tedious. The insistent presence of Coffin’s dog Gus in a featured role is no help. Someone should throw the animal a bone big enough to last till the next, one hopes more typically satisfying, outing.