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by Peter Robinson
Avon, July 2002
400 pages
ISBN: 0380811812

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Alan Banks, acting Detective Superintendent of the North Yorkshire police force is faced with another complex series of crimes. A call to 999 results in a pair of officers dispatched to quell what is thought to be a domestic disturbance. When probationary PC Janet Taylor and PC Dennis Morrisey arrive, they find Lucy Payne unconscious on the floor and a nightmare in the cellar. They look into a small room to one side and find a dead teenager who has been tortured and raped. A few minutes later, the suspect, Terry Pa with terrible head trauma, is handcuffed to a pipe and Den is dying from a slash to the carotid artery and jugular vein.

Five young, slim, small teenage girls have gone missing in the past few months. The corpse in the cellar is the latest, only missing for a couple of days. Banks looks around the basement and sees a door to another room. He opens it and sees what appear to be clumps of mushrooms poking through the earth. The mushrooms are human toes, and when the cellar is excavated, three more bodies are found. Is Terry Payne the murderer? Was he really a wife beater as Lucy has averred to her neighbor, Canadian artist Maggie Forrest, who has come to England to escape a battering husband. And what will happen to the probie, Janet Taylor, who has been suspended for using deadly force against a suspect.

Banks and his team slog through the evidence and find more clues to past crimes, some involving Lucy, who had been an abused child, and others involving Terry, a teacher. Banks' personal life is also filled with a tangle of emotions. I found the nonlinear method of telling this story confusing, and, on the whole, this 11th Alan Banks tale not as satisfying as In A Dry Season

Reviewed by Barbara Franchi, September 2002

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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