A task force of police officers from across England struggles to apprehend the killer they’ve imprudently dubbed “Billy Dead Mates.”
The nickname, mercilessly ridiculed by feminist Lifeworld columnist Sondra Halliday, stems from the fact that the first two shooting victims, Linzi Birrell and Rhian Douglas, were best friends. So were the next two, Angela McCabe and Joshua Norbury. Shortly before getting murdered, each victim received a little white notebook whose pages were blank except for a single line from a poem by an American writer. As DI Gilles Proust and DC Simon Waterhouse of the Culver Valley Police work with their counterparts from Bournemouth and Poole and the London Metropolitan Police to identify Billy, comedian Kim Tribbeck, already stressed out by her long-estranged grandmother’s drawn-out demise in Rawndesley Hospital, has an alarming recollection: Somewhere, sometime during her most recent circuit of stand-up performances, someone slipped her a little white notebook as well. When she reports the matter to the police, she’s chagrined to find her own most urgent question (who’s planning to kill me?) humiliatingly transformed by them (since she received the notebook at least a few weeks ago, why hasn’t she been killed yet, and who’s the best friend who’s slated to be killed along with her?). Under every rock Proust, Waterhouse, and DC Chris Gibbs turn over, they find fresh suspects, from Kim’s ex-lover Liam Sturridge to Marjolein Baillie, the self-styled Ishaya of Bright Path (don’t ask). While Sondra Halliday loudly insists that the crimes are nothing more or less than femicide, Kim’s transgressive, tightrope-walking wit provides a welcome fulcrum between the extravagantly inventive mystery and the unrelenting exploration of even minor characters’ psychology.
Hannah (Keep Her Safe, 2017, etc.) strews clues and complications with such prodigal abandon that even readers who rub their eyes in disbelief at her solution will be impressed by the range and weight of her impassioned plotting.