The police know who raped Penelope Hurst: Edward Burrell, a malcontented electrician working on her parents' London house. But all the circumstantial evidence against Burrell can't top the alibi the coppers are unable to break. So Penny's well-to-do boyfriend Calvin Slade persuades his loyal public-school mate Timothy Rees, still in love with Penny himself, to join him in bullying a confession out of Burrell. Except that Calvin gets carried away, threats of torture turn into the real thing, and suddenly Calvin and Tim are in the same position as Burrell--with an alibi far more susceptible to a police force ironically far more intent on breaking it. Though short on surprise, Ashford's 32nd thriller (Judgment Deferred, 1994, etc.) is gripping from the opening scene; the author knows everything there is to know about this sorry lot.