In Riley’s debut thriller, a West London detective inspector working a murder case gradually uncovers possible corruption among the authorities.
At Pine Street Police Station, it’s DI Arthur Botley who answers the call about a body. It doesn’t take long for Botley to identify the dead man, who may have inadvertently provoked a gang when burglarizing a house with someone else. Things get dicey when DS Donna Strachen from the Drug Squad shows up, looking for missing colleague DS Phillip Wood. Wood may be dead, or he could be the one Donna saw driving around with drug traffickers. But this is only the beginning of a series of nefarious happenings Botley encounters, from bogus coppers to blackmail, frame-ups, and more murder. Riley’s novel boasts a cast of characters that all seem guilty of something; even Botley collects money for thuggish Frank Petchey, a man he knew in the army but who still scares him. The story focuses less on who’s committing the murders than on the motives—especially true once the crimes seem to develop a political angle, starting with the murder of an Arab student with ties to a member of Parliament. Suspense comes in the form of Botley’s increasing distrust of seemingly everyone. His wariness is perfectly understandable as he links a number of people, gangsters and police alike, to murder or drugs, whether said person is directly responsible or a victim of a frame job. Even Botley’s personal story may have a connection to the main plot: grandson Jimmy, son of his estranged daughter, Christine, has not spoken a word in some time, shaken by what could be an event related to the murders. Riley drops some British slang that might throw off a few Yankees—e.g., firms (criminal organizations), tea leaf (thief), and Botley’s previous position in the Flying Squad (a Metropolitan Police unit that investigates armed robberies)—and though he avoids outrightly defining the terms, he provides plenty of context to minimize the head-scratching moments for readers. The ending is surprisingly modest, but it’s a simple conversation that’s both poignant and memorable.
A tense mystery that’s concerned more with why than how.