CRACKING OPEN A COFFIN by Gwendoline Butler


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 Crises--personal and professional--beset Chief Commander John Coffin of the Second City of London police (Coffin on Murder Street, etc.) as he grapples with the disappearance of local University students Amy Dean and Martin Blackhall, son of University Rector Sir Thomas Blackhall. Amy--the daughter of wealthy businessman James Dean, once a policeman, whose very presence evokes unhappy memories in Coffin--was a volunteer at Star Court House, a shelter for abused women from which another student volunteer had vanished a year earlier. Onetime celebrated model Josephine Day also volunteers there, exorcising a tragic ghost, as does a gang of neighborhood women on motorcycles who provide protection when needed. Amy's body is found, encased in a crude wooden box. Martin Blackhall turns up too--badly injured--and is arrested in an unrelated matter. He appears guilty of Amy's murder; but then another strange death; the work of forensics; and Coffin's ever busy thought processes making connections to the past produce a very different killer--even as Coffin faces a solid commitment to actress Stella Pinero, his on-again, off-again love, and a crucial meeting with superiors that may end his career. A bit flawed by its unusually choppy narrative style and by a too heavy concentration on Coffin's psyche--but, still, solid work in one of the genre's most interesting series.

Pub Date: Sept. 6th, 1993
ISBN: 0-312-09777-8
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1993


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