The only way Chief Inspector Charlie Woodend (The Red Herring, p. 710, etc.) can solve a case, as he used to remind his old bagman, Bob Rutter, is by cloggin’ it: walking over the crime scene to get the feel of it. Which doesn’t mean he appreciates other people tramping all over his crime scene. So when his new bagman, Sergeant Monika Paniatowski, drives him to Wilf Dugdale’s farm to view the bodies of a middle-aged man and a young woman shot dead in the front parlor, the sight of Chief Constable Dick Ainsworth and half a dozen of Central Lancs’ finest parked all over the driveway and stomping through the house drives him fair ’round the bend—even before he has to deal with journalist Peter Bennett, whose persistence in leaking information to the BBC gets him cuffed and hauled off to the nick for his trouble. Next day, Woodend’s suspended himself, his case turned over to DI Harris, who “needs a map to find his way to his own office.” But suspension isn’t the end of Woodend’s increasingly perilous woes; soon DCI Stanley Evans arrives from Preston to investigate charges of bribery and corruption that ultimately lead to his arrest. Released on bail, he’s still under the gun. With no official standing, he must prove he’s been fitted up—which means asking plucky Monika to risk her career stalking a merciless killer who wants Woodend to pay for his crimes.
Title notwithstanding, there’s more than enough guilt to go around in Spencer’s chilling ninth.