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Samantha Ryan doesn’t take proper care of her ailing mother--at least that’s what her put-upon sister thinks--and she’s forever losing her housekeys. But when she puts on her lab coat and changes into Dr. Ryan, the Home Office pathologist, she becomes the best hope for solving a pair of ritual killings in Cambridge’s fen country.

Both victims have been garroted, mutilated, adorned with ivy shoots, and left on consecrated ground—and both had run afoul of unsavory club owner Sebastian Bird. So Sam’s colleagues, from sympathetic Inspector Tom Adams to overbearing Supt. Harriet Farmer, are certain Bird killed them both; they take Bird’s knowledge of an eerily similar 30-year-old killing (garrote, mutilation, ivy, sacred depository) and the witchcraft lore that goes back centuries as even stronger evidence against him. But Sam, who toils in her mortuary with all the aplomb of Kay Scarpetta (if with a lot less compelling fascination with grisly detail), keeps turning up bits of evidence that don’t fit Bird--but that strongly suggest he’s being framed by an ultimately unconvincing, though well-hidden, killer.

Just what you’d expect if somebody whittled Patricia Cornwell down to TV scale alongside A&E’s Cracker episodes--where alert American viewers will already have caught this first installment of Sam’s adventures.

Pub Date: June 17th, 1998
ISBN: 0-312-18178-7
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1998


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