A serial killer and a pedophile overtax the Bradfield Metropolitan Police.
Detective Chief Inspector Carol Jordan, returning to work after her rape seven months ago, heads a Major Incident Team that includes one closeted and one declared lesbian, one man promoted beyond his abilities, another so competitive he snoops through co-workers’ garbage, one by-the-book copper and the obligatory computer whiz. Profiler Dr. Tony Hill, who loves the sexually frozen Jordan, helps the team track down (1) two missing boys presumed dead at the hands of a pedophile and (2) the copycat killer of two prostitutes whose signature matches that of Derek Tyler, a nutter sequestered in Bradfield Moor Secure Hospital. While they canvass the working girls’ neighborhood and roam Internet child-porn sites for glimpses of the vanished boys, Hill grapples with the voice that apparently instructed Tyler to kill. Several unconvincing red herrings, including hospital director Aidan Hart, fall under suspicion. To entice the serial killer, Det. Paula McIntyre goes undercover as a prostitute, almost ending her life and Jordan’s career. The team and Hill effect a last-minute rescue, but Det. Insp. Don Merrick is less fortunate in his confrontation with the child molester in the wilds of Scotland.
Hypnotic mind-control, sexual trauma overcome by a roll in bed with a good-looking hunk, and dead ends jump-started by fortuitous computer photos make McDermid’s latest exercise in serial murder (The Distant Echo, 2003, etc.) less than compelling.