Britain’s second-best cop chronicler (following Ian Rankin) introduces a Nottinghamshire detective inspector whose retirement to Penzance has done nothing to lift his nightmares.
Although he jailed her abductors, sadistic Alan McKiernan and his slavish follower Shane Donald, DI Elder is still haunted after 15 years by vanished Susan Blacklock. Now Donald’s been paroled, and either he or a copycat is defiling and murdering young girls again. Invited to butt out by Maureen Prior, CID, Elder remembers his promise to Susan’s parents to find her. The years have not been kind to them. Her remarried father refuses to discuss her, and her lonely mother still wistfully leaves flowers at the spot where Susan was last seen. Making no headway in tracking Donald, who’s gone to ground in a carnival, Elder talks to Susan’s drama-school friends, and new facts cast doubts on Shane and McKiernan’s guilt. A bit of luck puts Donald within Elder’s grasp, but then Elder’s teenage daughter Katherine, who lives with her mum Joanne and her mum’s long-time lover, vanishes, and Elder is overwhelmed by thoughts of what might be happening to her. McKiernan, it seems, had more than one disciple, and this one is determined to avenge McKiernan’s imprisonment.
Fans who thought they’d never forgive Harvey (In a True Light, 2002, etc.) for abandoning series character Charlie Resnick may be placated by his cameo appearance here. More important, they’ll find the lovelorn Elder a hero to root for.