Chief Inspector Lloyd of the Stansfield CID (Verdict Unsafe, 1997, etc.) has gotten himself into a pickle, all right. His lover and invaluable colleague Judy Hill has been sidelined into desk duty by an unplanned pregnancy (courtesy of Lloyd himself) that prevents her from engaging in her favorite pastime of picking holes in Lloyd's tempting but shaky theories. Fortunately, Judy's partner, Sgt. Tom Finch, shears off his angelic golden curls and steps up to the plate. Not only does he respond in person to the report of a murder in Windermere Terrace, using his tough new look to intimidate Geoffrey Jones, a shifty-looking neighbor who heard a struggle and saw a fleeing figure but neglected to call the police; he also takes charge of the murder scene, where he finds Estelle, the rich, beautiful, neurotic young wife of physician Carl Bignall, bound and suffocated on the kitchen floor. And he identifies teenage thug Ryan Chester and his dimwitted cousin Baz Martin as the perps who've been fencing goods from the Bignalls' home. But more important than his crime scene generalship is his partnership with Lloyd, as the two examine an ever-changing array of evidence from a host of conflicting sources. Even Hill takes time off from her ruminations over Lloyd's unfitness to be an adequate labor coach—much less an effective dad—to produce a diary in which Estelle reveals that she has a lover.
Not even Hill's pointless maunderings on parenthood can spoil McGown's finely worked Chinese-box puzzle.