A summons from an old army mate pulls London Inspector Sam Blackstone from the brutal murders of nine young girls in Staffordshire and sends him to Cheshire to investigate a crime that turns out to be just as horrible.
When they served together in Afghanistan, Tom Yardley saved Sam Blackstone’s life, and there’s no way for the inspector (Blackstone and the Fire Bug, 2005, etc.) to refuse his cryptic summons to the salt mine in Marston. But he’s already too late to help Tom, who’s fallen victim to a faulty fuse in an underground explosion. All he can do now is honor Tom’s memory by finding out exactly what nefarious scheme mine owner Lawrence Bickersdale, who clearly has less interest in salt than in quick profits, is using the operation to conceal. Meanwhile, the Staffordshire case falls into the lap of Dr. Ellie Carr, whose work in the nascent field of forensic pathology comes under attack by the local constabulary. And Blackstone’s sergeant, Archie Patterson, is masquerading as a client of a London brothel in the hope of denting the ubiquitous trade in child prostitution. All three cases are connected, of course; what’s shocking is just how deeply those connections take Blackstone into the heart of darkness.
The period detection in every corner is plodding, but the payoff, which piles surprise on surprise, is well worth the wait.