A multiple murderer is incarcerated in Kempton Hospital, a secure mental facility. Is he insane or evil?
Humphrey Sweet is so charismatic and manipulative that few can resist his requests. When Dr. Maurice Simnal is sent to evaluate him, Sweet hints at multiple personalities and begins to reveal that the three young girls the authorities know about were not his only victims. Working with DCI Tom Mautby, Simnal proceeds to check out the information Sweet’s divulged about other murders. As more cases are cleared by Sweet’s information, it’s evident that he’s what Simnal dubs a variable serial killer, one whose victims range over different ages and sexes. Simnal, separated from his wife by a short-lived affair with a student, still loves his wife and spends time with their young son. Despite these attachments, he’s soon entangled in an affair with Dr. Ruth Day, an unhappily married psychologist on the Kempton staff. The nurses, who’ve seen Sweet visited by Kathleen Hood, a woman whose husband has mysteriously disappeared, believe he’s sane. As Simnal visits Sweet’s parents and the murder victims’ families, he wonders if they’re right. But the truth won’t be uncovered until after Simnal’s son is kidnapped and Sweet reveals the details of his last murder.
Charles Manson goes British in this unnerving study of evil, another winner for Turnbull (Chill Factor, 2005, etc.).