Forensic psychologist Megan Rhys’s second case is even more grisly than her striking first (Frozen, 2006).
Ever since converting from Wicca to Christianity, Tessa Ledbury has been leading a quiet life. Apart from her husband and children, virtually her only friends are Bob and Jenny Spelman from St. Paul’s Church. So why has someone stabbed her, stripped her and carved a pentagram onto her forehead? Det. Supt. Steve Foy, of the Wolverhampton police, doesn’t hold much stock in profilers, but since attending Megan’s course at Heartland University he’s become a believer. Megan’s work on Tessa’s murder is complicated by her relations with another admiring student, Dutch ex-cop Patrick van Zeller. While Tessa’s sister Ceri, a part-time lecturer at Pendleton College, revels in her adulterous affair with yet another student, Tessa’s killer, who gloats over his cleverness in a series of italicized passages readers are well-advised to skip, prepares for his next victim. Can Megan figure out who he is before he strikes too close to home?
The killer’s motivation is both too explicitly telegraphed and unconvincing. When she sticks to her detectives, though, Ashford is a whiz as a storyteller. Her inventiveness, economy and pace ought to shame recent bloated epics by Patricia Cornwell and Kathy Reichs into crash diets.