An apparent suicide and the irrefutable evidence of three murders that swiftly follow are only the tip of the iceberg as DCI Andy Gilchrist of the Fife Constabulary follows a dark and bloody trail of mayhem.
Reasonable people like Gilchrist and his sidekick, DS Jessica Janes (Life for a Life, 2015, etc.), can disagree about whether Brian McCulloch had help gassing himself in his Jaguar. But there’s no doubt that McCulloch’s two daughters back home were drugged and smothered or that his wife, Amy, was decapitated, disemboweled, and skinned in his absence. The obvious suspect is Thomas Magner, McCulloch’s partner in Stratheden Enterprises, who’s already been accused of rape by 11 women. But Magner provides a convincing alibi, and then his accusers alarmingly begin to recant their stories or die. These developments should at least clear the air, but they lead to even knottier mysteries stretching back years into the past. As Gilchrist struggles to keep track of the old and new felonies St. Andrews CID suddenly finds itself investigating, he has to manage unwelcome complications in his rocky romance with married police pathologist Rebecca Cooper and control the fallout from his trademark infractions against the rules laid down by his boss, Chief Superintendent Tom Greaves, who’d clearly relish any excuse to get him tossed off the force for good. Gilchrist’s search winds up in a hyperextended Grand Guignol set piece that isn’t for the squeamish, the oversensitive, or those exasperated by repeated shifts in power between good guys and bad guys tussling over weapons that pass back and forth.
Luridly over the top from beginning to end, though it’s hard to resist a hero who reflects, “Of all the suicides he had seen, McCulloch was certainly the best dressed.”