Constable Hazel Best’s fourth case brings her face to face with a determined terrorist before plunging her into even deeper waters.
Rachid Iqbal has traveled all the way from Turkey to the village of Wittering so he can celebrate the opening of a new museum commemorating Britain’s role in the Crusades with a homemade flamethrower. Luckily for everyone but him, Hazel, just back from four months’ leave after her last mind-bending adventure (Desperate Measures, 2015, etc.), has been assigned to babysit Oliver Ford, a celebrity TV historian who’s on hand for the festivities. Diving between Iqbal and Ford, she takes the brunt of the blast herself, losing half the hair on her head in the process. More predictable writers would save this incident for the denouement; Bannister uses it as a meet-cute to begin Ford’s unlikely courtship of Hazel. He takes her to lunch, buys her a necklace, goes over her head to press her to accept the gift after she turns it down, then spirits her off to Morocco and Istanbul and who knows where else. Back home, Gabriel Ash, Hazel’s friend, a former intelligence analyst, frets that this fairy-tale romance just isn’t believable, and soon he’s gathered evidence from Saul “Saturday” Desmond, the teen petty thief Hazel took into her house, that makes him resolve to go after Hazel himself. That turns out not to be necessary—Gabriel actually runs into Ford and Hazel at Heathrow Airport on their way home—but more trouble is clearly brewing, and it’s only a matter of time before it boils over the top.
Bannister’s most notable achievement here is to keep smoothly shifting gears from one set of suspense conventions to another without ever letting you forget the cleareyed heroine’s premonition that “somehow, trouble seemed to come looking for her.”