A British police detective faces his most dangerous case while haunted by personal demons and under siege at work.
A silky-voiced ritualistic killer forces his bound captive to drink a thick and fatal liquid. Cut to the rude 5:00 a.m. awakening of Detective Chief Inspector Mark Lapslie, who for medical reasons works primarily from his rural cottage. Lapslie suffers from synesthesia, a rare condition in which the messages from his senses are so jumbled that he can, for example, taste sound. The advance of the disease challenges both Lapslie and his stolid sidekick, Sergeant Emma Bradbury, who arrives bright and early to drive him to the home of Catherine Charnaud, where the beautiful owner has been skinned alive. Meanwhile, tightly wound Carl Whittley argues with his mother and tends his bedridden father before going outside to experiment with homemade bombs. A series of flashbacks dramatize pathological Carl’s favorite moments leading to the death of Catherine, a cable TV presenter. Carl’s sadistic plans for equally grisly sequels alternate with Lapslie’s challenges in dealing with his synesthesia and with hectoring by the press and growing opposition at work—and, yes, in facing the pressure of additional killings by identifying and catching Carl. Lapslie and Emma’s methodical questioning of witnesses includes many interesting forensic nuggets.
Prolific McCrery’s second Lapslie thriller (Still Waters, 2008), less whodunit than police procedural and psychological study, is eerie, absorbing and elegantly written.