Oldford CID veteran Supt. John Lambert and his faithful sidekick, DS Bert Hook, ask who strangled an adult student returning to university and dumped her body in the Severn.
Everyone remotely connected with the late Clare Mills acts and even thinks suspiciously from the very beginning: her unofficial mentor, the postgraduate student who fancied her, the farmhand she befriended, the brutish husband she ditched. Most suspicious of all are Clare’s mother, who seems weirdly disconnected from the reality of her daughter’s death, and the matey stepfather whose offers of friendship she’d steadfastly refused. And each new bit of evidence—the cell phone that tracked Clare’s incoming and outgoing calls in the last days of her life, the results from the forensics exam, her connection to two valuable pieces of jewelry—allows Lambert and Hook (Just Desserts, 2004, etc.) to put more pressure on the suspects, slotting them into dicey roles that might as well have been foreordained by a game of Match the Vices. One suspect turns out to be Clare’s secret lover, another an illegal immigrant desperate for a passport, a third a low-level drug pusher, a fourth a high-level drug lord.
It’s a modest though genuine pleasure watching Lambert and Hook civilly unmask everyone within a five-mile radius but a disappointment when the most obvious and least interesting suspect turns out to be the killer.