What looks like a routine murder-suicide turns into a nerve-wracking case for DCI Alan Banks and DI Annie Cabbot.
Set designer Mark Hardcastle’s hanging in Hindswell Woods certainly looks like a suicide, his only wounds from a noose tied by someone left-handed, like Hardcastle himself. After Annie Cabbot’s initially inconclusive visit to Hardcastle’s colleagues at the Eastvale Theatre, an obvious motive for suicide surfaces with the discovery of Hardcastle’s lover, retired civil servant Laurence Silbert, clubbed to death in his posh digs. In between the two deaths, a shopkeeper sold Hardcastle, his face grimed in blood, the rope used to hang him. So why does Supt. Catherine Gervaise, who hustled Banks onto the case on his day off, promptly hustle him off and into enforced vacation? Why does she insist that Annie drop her inquiries to focus on the nonfatal stabbing of a teenaged drug dealer in East Side Estate? Why do Banks’s unofficial questions lead to threats and worse against his lover Sophia Morton? Why are Her Majesty’s minions so transparently eager to draw the curtain on a case that looks open-and-shut? The answers will link Hardcastle’s latest work on Othello to the government post Silbert retired from, but in a maddeningly inconclusive way that yields a high degree of realism but a conclusion that drags on forever.
The much-honored Robinson (Friend of the Devil, 2008, etc.) revisits a concept even Agatha Christie, in one of her last novels, couldn’t bring to life. Despite his far more subtle and powerful psychological insight, he doesn’t pull it off either.