There’s a surge of excitement in the quiet town of Castlemere, where Superintendent Frank Shapiro runs the police department with the help of Inspector Liz Graham and motorcycle-riding Detective Sergeant Cal Donovan (No Birds Sing, etc.). This time, the department’s biggest headache is the small-time crookery carried on mostly by Roly Dickens, his teenaged son Mikey, and their little gang of followers. Then one day Donovan, taking his bike in for a gas-up, finds Mikey Dickens attempting a robbery. After striking Donovan with his gun, Mikey flees in his van, with Donovan in hot pursuit. Seconds later, the van has crashed into a car driven by schoolteacher Pat Taylor, and Mikey is trapped in a vehicle that’s ready to explode at any minute. The teacher seems hysterical but uninjured, so Donovan, at considerable risk, frees Mikey from the van—in time’s nick. Later, as Donovan tries to build a case of armed robbery against Mikey, he’s frustrated by the disappearance of the gun, undoubtedly hidden by Roly. All of this pales when Mikey is found beaten nearly to death and Donovan’s prints are all over the weapon. Shapiro reluctantly removes Donovan from the case, but Liz Graham continues to seek out the true assailant. She finds her quarry (and an over-the-top motive) in an unexpected quarter, barely in time to save Donovan from Roly Dickens’s revenge. As much character study as complex puzzle, with some sensitive thinking on the nature of friendship and trust—and with the psychological pressures behind the mayhem made convincing and believable. Solidly readable, divertingly different.