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The naked Jane Doe was found first, looking as if she—d gone seventy rounds with a heavyweight champ before being dropped, dead, into a canal boat. Then came the dead sheep, shot three times for no apparent reason. Finally, Wicksy, a harmless, homeless bloke, was used for target practice by someone a fair piece away, for reasons unfathomable. Suddenly, dull Castlemere is a scene of carnage, perhaps at the hand of a top-class assassin. Before the villains have time to reload, Supt. Frank Shapiro, Insp. Liz Graham, and Sgt. Cal Donovan are on the case, focusing on a conference staged by Philip Kendall, sales director of Bespoke Engineering. Indications are that the dead girl was a prostitute, perhaps servicing one of Bespoke’s visiting customers. While inquiries are made, Maddie Cotterick, another working girl, goes missing, and someone takes a potshot at Kendall, hitting Shapiro instead and landing him in hospital with a bullet lodged perilously close to his spine. A replacement officer is sent, but it is a ruminating Shapiro who makes the connection between the sheep, the homeless man, and the dead girl, while Graham wrestles with station personalities and Donovan is sent off to retrieve Maddie, placing him repeatedly in the assassin’s path. A semi-downbeat ending finds one more dead, Shapiro verging on retirement, and Graham contemplating control of the station house. A neat balancing act, switching smoothly from character study to puzzle unraveling. If the villain does turn unexpectedly mawkish at the end, Bannister still provides plenty to send new readers back to Broken Lines (1999) and the other Castlemere yarns.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-312-24400-2
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Minotaur
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 2000


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