Gangland killings, bureaucratic backstabbing, Detective Inspector Tom Thorne in a downbeat mood—what else is new?
Leading, as ever, one of those lives of quiet desperation, Thorne finds his fourth outing (Lazybones, 2004, etc.) launched with a phone call from someone as melancholic as he is. Ex-DCI Carol Chamberlain is having to contend with slimy Gordon Rooker, or, rather, with someone pretending to be Gordon Rooker, since, in fact, the real Gordon Rooker is doing 20 years in Park Royal Prison for setting fire to schoolgirl Jessica Clarke. The crime, heinous and harrowing enough, gains extra ugliness when it turns out that Jessica was the wrong schoolgirl. Contract killer Rooker mistook Jessica for Alison Kelly, standing next to her, and thereby hangs a tale of economic rivalry, the Kellys being at the time preeminent among North London racket folk. In other words, a message was being sent about turf warfare in the making. But, in all this, what accounts for the transformation of unflappable Claire into someone old and scared? To begin with, she’d never quite been able to get past the sheer grisliness of the Jessica Clarke case—she’d been a lead investigator in it—and now it’s alive again, the centerpiece of her nightmares. Even more pressingly, she’s being stalked: late-night phone calls plus a shivery letter from the pretend Gordon Rooker. Claire needs help, she acknowledges to Thorne. Meanwhile, back at the Met, a task force is being formed to cope with the sudden ratcheting up of gangland hostilities—a development that forces Thorne to confront an old enemy: DCI Nick Tugham, ambitious, sycophantic and, worst of all, his senior. Street mayhem on the one hand, office politics on the other, plus a dismal ongoing family drama: Will Thorne doloroso ever catch a break?
Thriller in a minor key.