The abrupt departure of DCI Carol Jordan leaves the Bradfield Metropolitan Police ill-equipped to deal with a killer whose targets bear a truly unsettling similarity to one another.
Unwanted by the police and shocked by the failure of consulting psychological profiler Dr. Tony Hill to prevent the murders of her brother, Michael, and his lover, Lucy (The Retribution, 2012), Carol has retired to the solitude of the country to rehab Michael’s barn. In her absence, someone has kidnapped, raped, tortured and murdered Bartis Health representative Nadia Wilkowa and now evidently is to follow suit with pharmacist Bev McAndrew, whose husband is stationed in the Mideast and whose son Torin, 14, has been left very much on his own. The breakup of Carol’s Major Incident Team has ended Tony’s consultancy with the Bradfield CID and banished Carol’s friend DS Paula McIntyre to the Skenfrith Street station, where DCI Alex Fielding rules with a hand more authoritarian but altogether less inspired than Carol’s. Paula reaches out first to Tony, then to Carol in an attempt to mend fences and incidentally enlist their help. And help is badly needed to answer two pressing questions: Why does the kidnapper favor women who look so much like Carol? And, given the way the forensic evidence is pointing, could the kidnapper conceivably be Tony, acting out his estrangement from Carol by attacking surrogates for her?
McDermid earns her customary high marks for planting clues, mastering procedural detail and maintaining suspense as the net closes. As usual, however, the endlessly fraught relationships among the continuing characters are the real draw.