In Bingham’s (Love Story, With Murders, 2014, etc.) latest thriller, South Wales DC Fiona Griffiths’ third outing finds her undercover trying to expose a group committing computer fraud and leaving bodies in its wake.
A payroll scam in which a store was unknowingly making payments to nonemployees is a case for the Fraud Squad, not usually for DC Griffiths of Major Crime. But when one of those names turns out to be a woman who’s died of starvation, Fiona is determined to stop those guilty of, if nothing else, what she considers to be manslaughter. Her persistence on the case leads to the discovery of what is irrefutably murder and the ultimate realization that the embezzlement is much bigger, including fraudulent names among numerous companies. Fiona, having successfully passed a rigorous undercover training course, gets a job as a cleaner, then in payroll, both as Fiona Grey. Sure enough, she’s approached by Vic Henderson, representing a nefarious band of thieving crooks. But Fiona, who suffers from a mental illness that renders her emotionless, may be in more danger of losing herself in her new identity. The author’s story is fairly straightforward; it’s primarily a question of who—be it Vic or any of the associates Fiona eventually encounters—is the brains behind the fraud. What makes the novel an exceptional piece of work are its characters, particularly the absorbing protagonist. Even with Fiona’s first-person perspective, readers are given only a glimpse of her mindset. Fiona, for instance, recognizes the feeling of fear, but when she’s threatened by Vic, fear becomes an enhanced sensation that’s more substantial and natural in her Grey persona. Likewise, the dual identities in the story are perpetually oscillating, as a seemingly indecisive Fiona will at different times refer both to herself and Fiona Grey in the third-person—a struggle later augmented when she goes deeper undercover with yet another identity. As fascinating as Fiona is, she’s matched by her villainous counterpart. Vic’s lust for Fiona seems genuine, but he eludes police attention and remains ambiguous, a quality that’s sometimes unnerving. When Fiona asks whether he’s killed someone, he dubiously responds, “Not necessarily me.” Fiona’s narrative sears the pages with indelible assertions: “Deception is so easy, I wonder why it isn’t more common.”
The simple plot is merely a foundation for intriguing characters who provide the real experience.