A high-profile disappearance battles a low-profile murder for the attention of DI Beverley Wharton.
When someone like Jasper Fitzroy-Hughes, the son of a very senior civil servant, goes missing, everyone in Gloucestershire CID is expected to be on high alert. There’s not much of a trail: Student nurse Jasper and his roommate and lover Gary Allen went to Stephen Bright’s party, but Gary returned home alone after a tiff that left Jasper free to go off with the mysterious Ray Axenfeld. Even so, Beverley’s boss, DCI Frank Lambert, wants her to break the case. Lambert, a bully and a bigot, is already down on Beverley because he suspects (correctly, it turns out) that she’s sleeping with DS Sam Richardson, and it won’t do to cross him. But Beverley is increasingly convinced that her time would be better spent figuring out who stabbed petty thief Billy Whipple to death, even though Lambert is certain that he was murdered by dunderheaded thug Spud Carney, who was so incensed at Billy’s advances to Spud’s girlfriend that he threatened to kill Billy after his body had already been found. Meanwhile, solicitor Helena Flemming has forsaken pathologist John Eisenmenger, her reticent lover of five years, for the embraces of her client Alan Sheldon, setting in motion a fatal chain of events.
More subdued than Eisenmenger’s florid first five exercises in grim forensics (With a Passion Put to Use, 2008, etc.), though a wild finale in the bowels of a funeral home is guaranteed to quicken the pulse.