DI Tom Thorne steps on more toes than usual to help out Nicola Tanner, a detective who’s supposed to stay even further away from the case at hand than he is.
Since Susan Best was nothing more than an inoffensive grade school teacher, Tanner is convinced the two men who squirted bleach into her eyes and stabbed her to death mistook her for Tanner herself, who was the dead woman's flat mate and lover. DCI Russell Brigstocke quite properly refuses to let Tanner work the case, so Tanner asks Thorne to take time out from his million other jobs (Time of Death, 2015, etc.) to look into the matter most likely to have made her new enemies: her work with the Honour Crimes Unit, which investigates the murders of young women whose Westernized behavior might have brought shame to their families. The HCU has focused lately on cold cases, but a hot one obligingly turns up: the murder of Amaya Shah, a Barnet College student found with her missing boyfriend’s semen inside her. The activist Asian-English members of the Anti Hate Crime Alliance, Muslims, Sikhs, and Hindus alike, bay for the blood of Kamal Azim, but the revelation that the missing boyfriend is actually gay persuades Thorne that the guilt lies elsewhere—perhaps within the ranks of the AHCA itself. To a case that cries out for tact, delicacy, and cross-cultural sensitivity, Thorne brings bulldog tenacity, a gift for reading people, and a determination to devote his every waking moment to its solution, especially after a second attack leaves Tanner’s flat in flames. Most readers won’t be surprised by the resolution, but very few will predict the unnerving coda.
His emphasis on the thorny issues surrounding honor killings allows Billingham (Die of Shame, 2016, etc.) to put a new and urgent spin on his tried-and-true procedural formula.