DI Tom Thorne (The Dying Hours, 2013, etc.) faces “the Curious Case of the Suntanned Corpse.”
Paul Monahan certainly handcuffed someone to the steering wheel inside Alan Langford’s car before he doused it in petrol and set it ablaze. Based on the evidence found in the photos Langford's wife, Donna, received shortly before her release from Wakefield Prison after serving 10 years for conspiring to kill him, though, it wasn’t Langford. Donna doesn’t much care whether her abusive husband is dead or alive, but she’s desperate for news about her daughter Ellie, 18, who disappeared last year while Donna was still enjoying her majesty’s hospitality, and she fears that Alan spirited her away. She begs Anna Carpenter, a low-rent inquiry agent who usually serves as the bait in honey traps, to help her, and Anna begs Thorne to help her help. For reasons that have nothing to do with his own personal preferences, Thorne agrees to take Anna along with him to Wakefield, where Paul Monahan, who’s still serving his own time, insists that he doesn’t know anything about a substitute corpse. His story convinces neither Thorne nor, evidently, whoever gets a fellow inmate to stab him to death that night. Clearly, someone doesn’t want the case reopened. Thorne, traumatized by the not-guilty verdict that vindicated judo instructor Adam Chambers of murder charges after his student Andrea Keane vanished, is haunted by the two missing 18-year-olds, and soon enough, readers will be too.
Not the best of Thorne’s nine appearances, but a solid, rewarding piece of work from beginning to end, with a particularly neat twist that arrives just after readers finally let down their guards.