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by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles
St. Martin's Minotaur, October 2001
308 pages
ISBN: 0312274858

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Detective Inspector Bill Slider is in charge of the investigation into the murder of Phoebe Agnew, a freelance journalist whose special cause had been probing corruption with particular emphasis on the legal system. Some of his detectives feel she got what she deserved, but murder is murder and must be punished. Slider reminds them that no one deserves a premature death.

At first it appears as though this were a sex crime. Agnew seems to have been tied and raped. She had been expecting someone for dinner, which is a little odd since she never cooked meals for anyone. The investigation uncovers some unusual and surprising facts and the probe extends into the government thus annoying all-powerful politicians. It finally leads the squad to a successful conclusion.

Slider has some problems in his private life as well. Readers of this series will recall that Slider had fallen in love with a musician, Joanna, and had left his wife for her. Now the final divorce decree has arrived and Bill has reason to think his personal problems have been solved. But Joanna is forced to present him with a very difficult dilemma requiring a life-changing decision. In addition, his subordinate and good friend Atherton seems on the verge of a nervous breakdown. All of this must be dealt with while investigating the murder.

This is a superb police procedural. We follow the assembling of clues, the investigation, and the way the police interpret clues and develop theories. We see exactly what works and what doesn't. One of the things we realize is that evidence can point different directions and it is important how the evidence is interpreted. Even the highly experienced cop sometimes makes mistakes.

The police are highly believable and authentic characters, a bit crude and ribald and taunting the female member of the squad who gives back as good as she gets. Bill and Joanna are equally believable human beings. They find themselves in a very difficult position and both react realistically to it. In addition, Bill is a fine policeman, concerned about his people and genuinely affected by murder and violence. He refuses to let death become allowable

The book is set in London and takes the reader to parts of London well off the tourists' beaten path. Seedy tenements, crowded streets, and overly adorable small villages became word pictures for the reader. The plot is nicely developed with a twist at the end I did not see coming. But all the clues were there and the author played fair with the reader.

The only thing that bothered me about this book was the frequent use of slang with which I, as an American, am not familiar. It wasn't away possible to guess at the meaning from the context. But that is a minor thing and one that is easily overcome. This was an excellent book and I recommend it.

Reviewed by Sally A. Fellows, December 2001

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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