John Coffin (Coffin’s Ghost, 2001, etc.) has been knighted for his services as Chief Commander of Police in London’s fictitious Second City, but whatever public attention he’s drawn has only made his job harder. The case in point this time is two cases. One involves a pedophile stalker who, not content with amassing a disquietingly extensive collection of pornographic photographs of children, has taken to writing boasting letters, with photos enclosed, to the Second City force. The other, even more alarming, features a serial killer who leaves his victims, raped and murdered, strewn throughout the borough of Spinnergate with a distressing lack of forensic evidence. Both perps seem irresistibly drawn to the even higher public profile of Coffin’s wife, actress Stella Pinero. The pedophile sends photos and letters directly to her; the killer threatens and kidnaps her. When she escapes, it’s with a photo that may well indicate that the two perps are the same. As the taunting messages continue and the body count rises, Coffin—with help from Paul Masters, his lead administrator; Phoebe Astley, the Chief Inspector who’s still carrying a torch for him; and a dozen other assistants, eventually including Stella herself—strains to find the pattern underlying the wave of violence. The answer, when it comes, will be plausible and powerful, though naggingly inconclusive.
Mid-range Coffin, with a sobering series of crimes efficiently set forth but disappointingly wound up. Still, every procedural detail, from the workings of the Second City force to the personnel’s inevitable personal problems, rings as true as ever.