Tamsin Rennie’s strangled corpse is found carefully arranged on the Hereford Cathedral Lady Chapel altar, clearly the work of the serial killer dubbed Sacristan—or a copycat killer who’s cleverly tailored the evidence to fit the scenario. In their fourth case (Malice Aforethought, 2000, etc.), Supt. John Lambert and Sgt. Bert Hook can be sure of only two things: Tamsin was beautiful and hooked on heroin. The victim’s flat was thoroughly cleaned before the police arrive, making it impossible to tell where she was killed. Tamsin’s landlady, Janet King, knows nothing about how the unemployed girl paid the rent (prostitution? drug dealing?), since she religiously respects her tenants’ privacy. Equally religious, more obviously and perhaps more dangerously, is Tamsin’s stepfather, the charismatic leader of a fundamentalist cult who was seen visiting Tamsin’s flat after her fanatical mother excommunicated her for her ungodly ways. Druglord Keith Sugden, who lurks ominously in the background, obviously felt differently about any hint that Tamsin was about to reform. Was she cleaning up her act for one authority figure by outraging the other? Two photographs in Tamsin’s flat lead to two very different boyfriends, a handsome and volatile actor and a respected politician. Both men claim to have been helping save Tamsin from herself—one of them, it turns out, by impregnating her. Dogged police investigation and a few lucky breaks finally uncover the ruthless killer beneath this tangle of motives and red herrings.
A clever mystery, though the police routine proves in the end a little too routine.