Just in time for Christmas, sex trafficking comes to St. Andrew’s, along with a mounting body count.
The first victim is found along Fife’s Coastal Path. It’s the tattooed pattern of doubled bones in the shape of the number 11 on the second and third, discovered in an isolated rental cottage handled by feckless estate agent Angus McCarron, that persuades DCI Andy Gilchrist (Hand for a Hand, 2012, etc.) that the Fife Constabulary is dealing, not with a serial killer, but with a sex slaver who’s cutting his losses. Tellingly, the victims are never identified, whether because Muir is no more interested in their individual stories than their killer is or because they take center stage for all too brief a moment before they’re supplanted by fresh corpses. Stewart Donnelly, the career criminal whose attack has sent DI Stan Davidson to the hospital, is summarily dispatched. So are Caryl Versace Dillanos, the self-styled international furniture buyer whose dealings with Angus had ranged far beyond renting a cottage, and her trainee, Jana Judkowski. At length, Andy rouses himself from his off-again romances with DS Nancy Wilson, forensic pathologist Rebecca Cooper, and perhaps DS Jessie Janes, newly arrived from Strathclyde Constabulary but already carrying a full load of baggage, and realizes that he’s dealing with a criminal mastermind who won’t hesitate to execute his accomplices along with his merchandise. The trafficking ring turns out to involve a vast network of crooks variously plotting against the law and each other. If you think you’ve run across a character who seems complicit, you’re probably right.
Grueling yet routine, with a detective whose amours are more interesting than his detective work and a lineup of criminals who have a hard time, once they’re unmasked, living up to their intimidating advance notices.