Bolton (Dead Woman Walking, 2017, etc.) spices her latest crime novel with a dash of the occult.
Legend holds that female children born in the shadow of Pendle Hill are baptized twice: first in the church and later in the dark waters beneath the hill. But when PC Florence Lovelady comes to serve on the local police force in the Lancashire town of Sabden, at the foot of Pendle Hill, she undergoes a third ritual: a baptism of fire. Reviled by her male colleagues for her posh Southern accent, her university education, and especially her sex, she still pushes herself steadily forward into the investigation of the disappearance of three local teenagers. Not even threats from her immediate superior, DI Jack Sharples, and an occasional bollocking from Superintendent Stanley Rushton can deter her from following her instincts. It’s only 30 years later, after the man convicted of the crime has died, that Florence, now Assistant Commissioner Lovelady, begins to re-examine its solution. A tiny “clay picture” she finds, an effigy that bears a striking resemblance to herself, makes her wonder whether the killer could still be at large. She turns to her old friends Daphne Reece and Avril Cunningham, members of a local coven, for answers and finds that the original crime, however ghastly, may have only been the tip of a dark and deadly iceberg.
A bit unbalanced, with the greatest care and attention given to the least interesting solution. When the ax finally falls, though, it falls like a thunderbolt.