Fresh from his plunge into the murky waters of history (In a Dry Season, 1999), Robinson proves that present-day England can be equally enigmatic and equally disturbing. The case begins with that staple of mystery fiction, the missing daughter; the twist this time is that Emily Riddle, whose nude photo has just appeared on the Internet, is the daughter of Chief Inspector Alan Banks’s mortal enemy, North Yorkshire Chief Constable Jeremiah Riddle. It isn’t long before Banks finds the runaway teenager keeping company with the dangerously unsuitable London impresario Barry Clough, and finds her, after some initial resistance, surprisingly ready to return home with him. But the sequel—which begins with the murder of a petty crook–turned–night watchman the very night one of the businesses whose premises he’s supposed to be minding packs up and vanishes more smartly than Emily Riddle ever managed—soon entangles the whole Riddle family in sordid revelations. And the news close to home is nearly as bad. Banks, struggling to keep the faith with both the girl he brought home and the superior he continues to detest, finds himself locked into a lie that sets him against Sgt. Annie Cabot—his assistant on the case and ex-lover—each wasting valuable energy nurturing suspicions of the other when they should both be digging still deeper in the Riddles’ bottomless closet.
Banks can’t help finding sharply nuanced pain, hard-won wisdom, and moral complexity everywhere he looks—at suspects, at victims, even in the mirror. The result is mystery-mongering at once as sensitive and grandly scaled as P.D. James’s.