An investigation into three Christmastime murders opens a Pandora’s box of violence for Detective Superintendent Henry Christie (Instinct, 2012, etc.).
It’s not bad enough that his 91-year-old mother is in the hospital, unlikely to recover from a recent heart attack. Or that his wayward sister Lisa has decided to bail out of her relationship with his respected colleague, DI Rik Dean. Christie’s holiday gets much worse when Chief Constable Robert Fanshaw-Bayley hands him three folders, each giving details about a victim who vanished on Christmas Eve and whose body turned up after the first of the year, starved, tortured and stuffed with chicken feathers. Christie quickly recognizes a common thread: The victims were roughly the same age and had attended the same country school in Belthorn. A search for other Belthorn graduates leads him straight to the Cromers. Terry and his mentally unstable brother Freddy head one of Lancashire’s leading crime families. Christie’s attempts to interview the Cromers, however, are repeatedly interrupted by stray bullets as the Cromers battle the Costains, Lancashire’s other leading crime family. An ambush in the local hospital, a drive-by shooting at the Costains’ and a nightclub rampage all pump up the body count until it looks as if Christie isn’t going to get to spend Christmas with Alison Marsh, his newly-minted fiancee, after all.
Oldham’s 14th shows that adding a ton of gunfire does little to improve what would otherwise be a pretty neat procedural.