DI Peter Shaw, of the West Norfolk Constabulary, battles his boss for the privilege of investigating what seems like a particularly gratuitous murder.
The candles, the decorations, and the local press are all waiting for Ruby Bright, but she’s going to miss her 100th birthday because someone’s wheeled her out of the Marsh House care home, past half a dozen CCTV cameras that somehow turned blind eyes to her departure, and smothered her with a plastic bag. It seems incredible that anyone would want to hasten her steady progress to the grave—until dotty old Christian Keyes, another guest at Marsh House, tells Shaw that Ruby had been convinced that her friend Beatrice Hood had also been murdered 18 months ago at the tender age of 87. Shaw is eager to pursue the case wherever it leads—and it will lead places he can scarcely imagine—but newly arrived Chief Constable Kieran Joyce, as officious as he is misguided, is determined to keep him focused on the protests the Walsingham Alternative Pilgrimage has planned to disrupt the devotions that will bring thousands of the more orthodox faithful to town for World Pilgrim Day. In addition, there’s been a rash of trainers tied together by their laces and tossed over power lines. Do they indicate high spirits or presage gang warfare? And one further complication strikes a more somber note: now that he’s been diagnosed with lung cancer, Shaw’s much older partner, DS George Valentine, has to decide whether to schedule aggressive treatments that may do no good or resolve to go gently into that good night.
Sensitive, meaty, and varied, although, as so often before (At Death’s Window, 2015, etc.), Kelly is more invested in laying out multiple intriguing plots than in tying all the loose ends together.