Rarely do Lavenstock’s police have even one serious crime to solve, but now two major investigations are taxing Superintendent Gil Mayo’s small force to the limit. His dependable sergeants, Abigail Moon and Ted Carmody, are deployed to the arson on Bessemer Street, which destroyed the house rented by a mysterious Polish visitor named Tadeusz Siemek, leaving inside a charred corpse that turns out to be not Siemek, but Stefan, British-born son of Polish WWII flier Piotr Kaminsky. That leaves recalcitrant Martin Kite, much to his annoyance, to investigate the assault on Canon Haldane’s wife Cecily, left for dead by someone she may have let into the house herself. Cecily’s family gathers by her bedside: her husband Edgar, a pillar of strength in the pulpit, but quite at sea without his wife’s firm hand; their insecure eldest daughter Olivia; her steady sister Julia, not quite on the mend from a broken love affair; and Jago, the irresponsible baby of the family. Caught up in the drama of their own lives, the Haldanes provide little help to Kite. But even less help is Tadeusz Siemek, who turns up two days after the fire, claiming that he went up to London, got hit by a car, spent the night in a hospital, and can remember nothing else.
Mayo (Killing Me Softly, 2000, etc.) is a stronger presence here than of late, but—in spite of an overcomplex solution—it’s the ensemble work and careful plotting that provide the pleasure in Eccles’s 12th.