Chief Inspector Wexford’s 22nd case returns to the late 1990s—and revisits much older territory as well—in tracing his relationship with a respectable citizen he’s certain is a murderer.
Half a lifetime ago, Reg Wexford (Not in the Flesh, 2008, etc.) cut his teeth on the strangling of Stowerton housewife Elsie Carroll. Wexford’s superiors, suspicious when the mistress of Elsie’s husband first declined and then insisted on providing him with an alibi, made him their prime suspect. But Wexford was convinced that the killer was Elsie’s neighbor, dog-walking Eric Targo, instantly identifiable by the birthmark on his neck. His only evidence: the disconcerting stare Targo returned when he caught Wexford looking at him. Ever since, Wexford tells DI Mike Burden in an extended series of conversations, he’s continued to suspect Targo of several stranglings without any solid evidence. A new murder dismayingly close to Wexford is about to focus his suspicions on Targo yet again. Meanwhile, however, he’ll be preoccupied by the disappearance of Tamima Rahman, a student of Mike’s wife Jenny, whose family DS Hannah Goldsmith is sure has forced her into marriage or killed her to protect the family honor. Wexford, who can’t help noticing how closely Hannah’s theories mirror his own, wonders if they’re both merely acting out obsessive suspicions. At length, however, the two cases collide with a jolt that shows how Wexford can be both way off-base and utterly right.
A less impassioned, more valedictory version of Simisola (1995) with a bonus: more information about Wexford’s early years than his celebrated creator has ever shared.