The northwestern England town of Chester (near the Welsh border) is being menaced by a serial killer. Inspector Walter Darriteau is on the case.
If there is such a thing as a "quiet" serial killer, that is the situation in Chester. There are no cases of multiple stab wounds, or blood all over the walls. A woman is drugged, and her head is completely wrapped in brown tape until she suffocates. Her body is stuffed in a suitcase, and dumped in an abandoned quarry. An old fisherman is pushed into a canal and drowns. An elderly woman is drugged and taken to a quiet patch of forest. The car is left running, and the exhaust is pointed back into the car with the windows rolled up. The police don't know if they are dealing with one or more killers, or their gender. There are the usual taunting letters, specifically intended for Darriteau. The killer/killers have a specific grudge against Darriteau, a native of Jamaica who is nearing retirement age, and wants him to suffer. A fellow member of the police department is attacked at the local race track. Is Darriteau next?
This is also the story of a boy named Armitage, more interested in singing, dancing and flower arranging than in the usual activities enjoyed by boys. Dad runs a failing car dealership, and Donna, his second wife, who handles the finances, has been embezzling thousands of pounds from the company. She also hates Armitage. When he is 11 years old, they are killed in a car accident. Armitage assumes that he will live with Mrs. Greenaway, the owner of the local florist shop, but she says that she does not have the space, or the desire, for Armitage. He spends the rest of his childhood in an orphanage. After he is released, he drifts from job to job. At one job, he crosses paths with Desiree, and falls instantly in love. She feels the same way.
Desiree is a brilliant student, and beautiful, who has been recruited to work at one of those super-secret research installations. She begins to have real doubts about her work, which involves experiments on live people. She starts bringing home samples of her work, and keeps a copy of her files off-site. Paranoia starts to set in. Desiree comes to an untimely demise.
Published in England, this is a kind of "quiet" novel, but a really good novel. The reader will stay interested until the end. Here is a first-rate piece of writing.
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