After 10 years of enviably low criminal activity, things are about to heat up for the town of Norbold.
Apart from his inability to do anything about local drug lord Mickey Argyle, Chief Supt. John Fountain, of the Meadowvale Police, has reduced crime statistics to the vanishing point and kept them there. But those days end abruptly when the police arrest law student Jerome Cardy for leaving the scene of a car accident and he’s beaten to death by Barking Mad Barclay, a violent racist who’s been arrested that same night. The crime might seem like the product of the victim’s massive bad luck, but Constable Hazel Best, a probationary officer in her first posting, doesn’t see it that way. Neither does Nye Jackson, the senior reporter for the Norbold News. They’re struck by the accuracy with which Jerome evidently foresaw his own death and the intensity with which he insisted on passing on a cryptic message—“Othello”—shortly beforehand to Gabriel Ash, a harmless local character dubbed Rambles with Dogs who’d been placed in Jerome’s cell for observation after he was savagely beaten by a bunch of bored teenagers. The fragile relationship that grows between Hazel and Gabriel may remind longtime fans of Bannister of her nine tales featuring private investigator Brodie Farrell and her damaged assistant Daniel Hood (Liars All, 2010, etc.). Once Hazel and Gabriel decide that the danger to Jerome came not from outside but from inside the Meadowvale Police Station, however, the stakes rise for Norbold.
Even so, Bannister (Death in High Places, 2011, etc.) keeps the focus on her memorable, if not entirely original, characters rather than the town they share or the plot—its opening moves piquantly surprising, its later surprises more predictable—that brings them together.