A bingo winner’s fatal mugging is only the first act in a splendidly overstuffed tale of serial killing.
Michael Waterman bestrides Bartonshire like a colossus. His gambling clubs dot the landscape, and his friendship with Chief Supt. Raymond Yardley, his brother-in-law, keeps him abreast of any development that might threaten his empire. But not all of Waterman’s power can keep his son Ben from falling for Stephen Halliday, a steward at the Bull’s Eye bingo club, or keep Waterman’s own name out of the newspapers when Tony Baker finds the body of old Wilma Fenton, whose killer took off before pocketing her winnings. Baker, a true-crime writer who’s already run circles around the coppers trying to catch an earlier serial killer, wastes no time in putting his name in the headlines again. Soon he’s getting anonymous letters from somebody who cackles about murders yet to come—murders alarmingly close to Waterman Entertainment’s outposts in Stansfield and Barton—that DCI Judy Hill, her husband DCI Lloyd, and their serious crime squad are helpless to prevent. Veterans Hill and Lloyd (Death in the Family, 2003, etc.) consider the case from every possible angle, analyzing forensics and alibis, sifting motives and criminal histories, and consulting a psychological profiler. Yet it’s not till the last act that the outlines of McGown’s architecture finally become clear.
The wide-ranging intelligence and exhaustive detail are stellar examples of what other police procedurals want to be when they grow up.