New forensic breakthroughs reopen a 25-year-old cold case.
In the meantime, most of the forensic evidence has disappeared from the Fife storage lockup, and two of the four principal suspects have moved to the States. Still, Assistant Chief Constable James Lawson, who was a young copper patrolling the snowbound streets that December night, seems determined to prove the young students who fell over the body of pretty barmaid Rosie Duff on their drunken way home really did rape and kill her. These days, Ziggy is a much-admired gay pediatrician in Seattle; Tom is a born-again Christian proselytizing in the South; Mondo is a snobbish literature professor in Glasgow; and Alex, married to Mondo’s sister Lynn, manufactures greeting cards in Edinburgh. But Rosie’s two brothers haven’t forgotten or forgiven, and her illegitimate son Graham is skulking about with vengeance in mind. All of them are spurring on Lawson, who seems to be making no headway on the case. Then, suddenly, Ziggy dies in an arson fire, Mondo becomes an intruder’s victim, Tom is waylaid while visiting Alex, and Alex’s new baby is abducted at a petrol station. Mere coincidence, says Lawson, but a chip of paint will prove him wrong.
McDermid, putting aside her fondness for serial killers (The Last Temptation, 2002, etc.), masterfully presents the 1978 portion of her story but stumbles so badly with melodramatic present-tense plot quirks that readers will be well ahead of Lawson in naming Rosie’s killer.