A pair of murders five years apart forms the basis of a fact-based sophomore case for DC Fiona Griffiths, of the South Wales CID, that’s just as intense as her first (Talking to the Dead, 2012).
Since Fiona is on hand to discover Mary Jane Langton’s severed leg in the late Elsie Williams’ chest freezer, she feels a special attachment to the victim, who disappeared in 2005. But her colleagues soon challenge her privileged position by turning up not only other sections of Mary’s corpse (though it’s reserved to Fiona to find her head), but, even more disturbingly, a hand and other body parts more recently associated with Ali el-Khalifi, a lecturer at the Cardiff School of Engineering whose expertise turns out to have connected him to a more sinister sideline. As everyone runs around trying to connect the two murders under Operation Abacus, which the cops promptly nickname Operation Stirfry, Fiona, shunted onto the Khalifi investigation by imperious, ill-tempered DI Rhiannon Watkins, is the only one to sense the more pressing connection between Khalifi’s murder and the suicide of Mark Mortimer, who slit his wrist with a piece of a broken bottle after he was jailed as the most inept drug smuggler in Welsh history. In fact, it’s Fiona, whose Cotard’s syndrome prevents her from feeling all kinds of emotions and sometimes even sensing feelings in her own body, who has what it takes to close the case and deliver some of the most memorably staccato narration in the genre.
Not as surprising or carefully structured as Bingham’s striking debut, but his remote, unquenchable heroine makes her stand apart from every one of her procedural brothers and sisters.