Life is proceeding in its accustomed rhythms when the man calling himself Adam Wilson arrives in the village of Bishop St. Leon. DI Roger Morris, of the Reading CID, is hiding his guilt over having accidentally killed his daughter beneath an oafish manner that makes strangers flinch. Susan Trent, the personal assistant to Rotherston estate agent Brian Marsh, is smoothing heavy makeup over her latest bruises and telling anyone who’ll listen that she had another nasty fall. And Martin Trent, a sometime travel courier just returned from Venice, has slipped back into a comfortable alternation between showing affection to his girlfriend Debbie Grant’s daughters (whose father consequently believes he’s a pedophile) and beating his mother. Adam doesn’t yet know all these secrets, but although he exercises due caution in chatting up the local pubkeeper, listening in on the nannies’ gossip, and quizzing his new flatmates, bespoke carpenter Chris Castle and DI Morris, it won’t be long before his mysteriously unidentified mission is complete. Betweentimes, wily veteran Yorke (A Case to Answer, 2001, etc.) winds up the tension so slowly yet surely that even rare outbursts of good news (“Rose had not got meningitis, nor a fractured skull. . . . Susan’s bruises faded”) sound ominous—until a violent windstorm uncovers a long-buried secret that will provoke one last round of violence.
Not Yorke’s best, but still a remarkable exercise in the sociology of crime in which the most unhealthy relationships sprout from the village setting as naturally as toadstools.