When Simon Wyatt hears that his daughter Victoria and her young son Leo have suffered a beating at the hands of her husband, Detective Sergeant Frank Tobin, he leaves his ailing wife without burdening her with the news and rushes over to Vicky’s house with the idea of having it out with Tobin. The wife-beater is too drunk, however, to do anything but snarl at Wyatt, take a poke at him, and trip over his own feet. Wyatt, leaving in disgust with Tobin stretched out on the floor, is startled to learn the next day that Tobin’s been found dead just where he left him—but not too startled to ask his sister Charlotte to supply him with an alibi. Just when it seems that Ashford (Looking-Glass Justice, 2001, etc.) is about to put the screws to another well-meaning lawbreaker, the tension eases: Wyatt’s alibi holds, and zealous DC Alec Metcalfe, who’s been pushing his lazy boss to keep the case open, is reprimanded and fined days before his retirement from the county force. But a rumor about a bent copper will bring Metcalfe back on special assignment, and once he’s on the job and back in the orbit of Charlotte Wyatt, whom he’s formed quite an attachment to, he and not his quarry will be put through the wringer.
Though the shifting focus on two complementary heroes, the second considerably more interesting than the first, keeps this ironic study from Ashford’s top drawer, it’s still an accomplished study in the nice ironies of the justice system.