The first indication Birmingham PI Kate Brannigan gets that things have gone wrong with her rock-journalist boyfriend, Richard Barclay--who's been posing as her husband in order to expose a scheme to defraud automakers' loan companies of short-term interest--is a call she receives from his solicitor in the dead of night. Richard's been stopped driving the flash car he and Kate had bought the previous day, and he's been arrested, the coppers having found two kilos of crack and a kiddie-porn memento inside. Kate (Kickback, 1993, etc.) soon satisfies herself that the car dealer under suspicion hasn't gotten wise and turned the tables, though Richard's bad luck is a coincidence that never does get satisfactorily resolved in the wake of the other problems he sticks Kate with. Not only does she have to come up with evidence of who really loaded the car with its ú200,000 cargo, but she has to look after Richard's eight-year-old son, Davy, visiting his father for the half-term, without tipping his possessive mother off to what her ex-husband's been up to. Don't look for comic relief when Kate shoulders these domestic chores. When Davy staggers home with a full load of hallucinogenic tattoos, the case turns more personal and nasty, until Cherie Roberts, the struggling mother of the two friends who vouched for the tattoo dispenser, pushes Kate's inquiries too hard and gets paid off with a shotgun blast. Kate's detection is more dogged than inspired, but the northern England working-class background is chillingly plausible, and Kate's wry humor as welcome as ever.