While barrister Trish Maguire (Keep Me Alive, 2004, etc.) ponders a knotty libel case, her best friend, DI Caroline Lyalt, wonders whether she’s about to commit slander herself.
Thirty years ago, idealistic Jeremy Marton, who lost his homeless shelter amid rumors that he was using it as a front to sell drugs, was jailed for a protest against X8 Pharmaceuticals that accidentally turned fatal. Jeremy insisted in court that he’d acted alone, but insiders knew he’d gotten his bomb from somebody he called “Baiborn.” Now that Jeremy has killed himself and Lord Simon Tick is about to become the official head of Her Majesty’s efforts on behalf of the homeless, his old family nickname of Baiborn convinces his daughter that he has to sue Marton’s Baiborn-baiting biographer, Beatrice Bowman, for libel. While Trish tries to get Beatrice off the hook by working out whether the two Baiborns were really one, Caro Lyalt is hamstrung by a present-day dilemma. Should she report rumors that her chief rival for a plum promotion is in the Slabb gang’s pocket and risk ruining both their careers, or keep quiet and risk seeing a bent copper rise to even more dangerous heights?
Though portentous text messages (“B crful”) and threats against Trish’s young half-brother David don’t supply much suspense, Cooper manages an aptly ironic ending that ties up the loose ends without oversimplifying the tough problems that endure.