Kingsmarkham, where Chief Inspector Wexford labors in the interests of law and order, is one of those small English towns that’s picture-postcard placid on the surface, a cauldron underneath. On any given Saturday, for instance, there’s enough sheer wickedness roiling and moiling to keep Satan smiling and honest cops hopping over the course of a long and distinguished series (Road Rage, 1997, etc.). On this particular Saturday, a young woman goes missing, but just before thinking the worst becomes inevitable, she turns up unharmed. Wexford breathes a sigh of relief. Exactly a week later, however, another young woman disappears. She, too, reappears no worse for wear, but neither returnee seems able to describe what happened to her very convincingly. Can’t or won’t? Wexford wonders. In the meantime, a notorious pedophile is released from prison. He’s paid his debt to society, authorities insist, but the enraged citizens of Kingsmarkham refuse to see it that way. Angry residents threaten, harass, and, having converted themselves into a bloodcurdling mob, end by burning down “the pedo’s” house. In the furor, a policeman is killed when someone in the crowd scores a direct, albeit accidental, hit with a homemade Molotov cocktail. Finally, a child from a well-to-do Kingsmarkham family is kidnapped, and the community finds itself facing three incendiary but seemingly unconnected situations. Except that they are connected, of course—by one of crime fiction’s most prodigious talents. A little slow, a little labored, but crammed with solid Rendellian virtues; the Regulars will rally round.