A trio of murders spanning nearly a century poses an unusual challenge for DCI Hannah Scarlett of the Cumbria Constabulary’s Cold Case Review Team—especially since one of the corpses is anything but cold.
Locals still tell the story of how Gertrude Smith, the Scottish lassie whom builder Clifford Hodgkinson hired and seduced and his jealous wife, Letitia, bashed to death on Halloween soon after World War I, roams the grounds of Ravenbank as the Faceless Woman. Lately, it seems that Gertrude’s ghost has a lot to answer for. Five years ago, Australian massage therapist Shenagh Moss, the wild beauty who’d thrown over married event manager Oz Knight in favor of Ravenbank owner Francis Palladino, was found dead under very similar circumstances, presumably the victim of another ex-lover, Craig Meek, who’d recently been released from prison just in time to attack Shenagh and die in a lorry accident. Hannah’s friend Daniel Kind, who’s evidently the most famous academic historian in the Lake District, soon takes a professional interest in the legacy of the Faceless Woman. But it takes the shocking murder of her best friend, much-married Terri Poynton, to drag Hannah into the case. Once again, there’s an obvious suspect—Terri’s violent ex-boyfriend Stefan Deyna—but this time Hannah and Daniel both wonder if he’s really guilty and wonder too if either of the earlier killers was ever correctly identified.
The ensuing investigation is more routine than usual for the detecting pair (The Hanging Wood, 2011, etc.), but Edwards does an impressive job of linking the three murders across the long years.