As Francis Blake leaves the Old Bailey, gleefully celebrating the dismissal of the charges against him for raping and murdering a young mother on Hampstead Heath while her two toddlers watched, neither Steve Preston of the Met nor his good friend, psychological profiler Fiona Cameron, is supposed to still be working the case. But they are, unofficially, whenever they can steal a moment. When she’s not off in Spain consulting about a serial killer on the loose there, Fiona is also worried that her partner, thriller writer Kit Martin, may be next on the list of a serial killer who’s already polished off three crime writers in the same gruesome manners they depicted in their fiction. Steve and his colleague Sarah Duvall, busy scouting leads Fiona’s provided to the Hampstead murder, think Kit’s in no danger, but when he’s abducted, Fiona heads off to search for him in the wilds of Scotland, where the killer is planning to exsanguinate Kit and paint the cabin walls with his blood, just as in his book. Sarah will deal with a publicity-seeking confessor and Steve will nab the real Heath villain, but it will be up to Fiona to save Kit—down a pint of blood and in the rifle sights of his tormentor—and finally come to terms with the her young sister Lesley’s murder by a serial killer who’s never been found.
Pretty murky motivation, not helped by the tic of brandishing the perp’s journal every several chapters. McDermid has handled the duel between serial killers and profilers better in The Mermaids Singing (1996).