Five years after 12-year-old Joseph Coyne vanished from an aviary alongside an abandoned house, Detective Supt. Parker, of the Greater Manchester CID, learns that another boy, Gary Maudsley, has disappeared from virtually the same spot. There’s every indication that the same child molester knows what happened to both boys, but it’s hard for Parker to pick that man out from a cast at once so innocuous and so universally troubled. His favorite suspect, Douglas Byrne, a video storekeeper who’s already served a term for sex offenses, insists that was all long ago. Mr. Moranti, the elderly finch trainer Gary had worked for, thinks of his helpers as gentle and delicate as birds. And Roland Byrne, the squatter whose bird yard supplies finches to Moranti, has won deep loyalty from the boys he’s befriended. When Brogan Healey goes to work as Gary’s replacement and is drawn into the circle of the bird yard, it’s clear that he’s been targeted as the next victim. But how can Parker pick out his predator when even Murray Hanson, the psychologist he’s bullied into coming up from London to work on the case, is tormented by the question of what could have driven someone as mild as his old schoolmaster Mallory Parris to interrupt his tea one afternoon by bludgeoning his wife to death with a hammer? Continuing her highly successful Minette Walters impersonation, Martin (A Likeness in Stone, 1998) discloses every last secret of these crabbed souls—especially the way a predatory sex offender is his own most pitiful victim.