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by Dan Waddell
St Martin's Minotaur, June 2008
299 pages
ISBN: 0312378904

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Detective Chief Inspector Grant Foster and Detective Superintendent Heather Jenkins lead the investigation into the death of a man found in a Notting Hill cemetery. His name is Darbyshire. His credit cards and documentation are intact, but his hands are missing. After the autopsy, DS Jenkins realizes that what appear to be random knife wounds on the body are actually letters and numbers, which she recognizes as having a genealogical significance. She suggests that they call Nigel Barnes, a family historian, whom she knows.

Barnes tells them that the 1A137 carved into the body refers to the central and west London birth records between 1852 and 1946. This would be of no help, except the last numbers dialed on Darbyshire's mobile are 1879. This gives them a year in which to look for clues to the modern murder.

Jenkins, Barnes, and another detective go to the family history center and have all the birth, death and marriage certificates with the numbers and letters 1a137 faxed back to the office, where they carefully read each one until Heather finds a death certificate for Albert Beck, whose body was found on the grounds of St. John's Church, Ladbroke Grove, on 29th March 1879. That was the location and date of the discover of Darbyshire's body. Barnes then returns to the center to search for descendants of Darbyshire.

There are more murders, all relating back to 1879, and all taking place roughly in the area of Notting Hill. Barnes frequently walks the streets and brings in bits of area history, like the current location of 10 Rillington Place, the former home of mass murderer John Christie.

I enjoyed the book because I know that area of London fairly well and liked the historical asides. However, they do seem to be grafted onto the main story. Otherwise, it is a decent British police procedural, and, if you are interested in history and like procedurals, you will enjoy this one.

Reviewed by Barbara Franchi, June 2008

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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