A serial killer, marital strife and a family tragedy dog a London cop in a police procedural that hits all the marks—and then some.
Pinborough opens by setting out the classic elements of a police procedural. London DI Cass Jones arrives at Money-penny’s, a sleek pub, to pick up his monthly payoff that lets owner Artie Mullins operate as he pleases. Jones has no compunction about the arrangement—that’s how cops survive in this miasmic London of the near future, afflicted by recession, terrorism and a new strain of AIDS that defies treatment. Jones has his own problems with cocaine and a dark moment in his past. But like all the characters here, he’s nuanced: He’s not entirely cynical and believes he can navigate the shoals of his unhappy department to solve cases, two of which he faces at the moment. The first involves the gruesome serial killings of four women over two months. Across the women’s nude bodies are scrawled in blood the words, “NOTHING IS SACRED.” And around the edges of their eyes, tiny eggs hatch maggots. The second case involves the murders of two young boys whose misfortune it was to be at the site of a drive-by gangland murder. Jones is barely on the case, which he works with a colleague with whom he had an extramarital affair and a bullying boss, before his brother, his brother’s son and wife (with whom Jones also had an affair) are found brutally slain. Worse, compelling evidence, including samples of Jones’ semen on the murdered wife, point to the DI as the culprit. His supervisor takes him off the case, his wife spurns him, and he’s left mostly alone to clear himself and solve the other cases. Then Pinborough smoothly blends another element: The case may have supernatural underpinnings.
Nuanced characters, evocative settings, tricky plot connections and a spin on genre conventions mark what appears to be the start of a distinctive series.