Frank Elder, shut up at his hideaway in Cornwall, receives a call from his ex-wife, Joanne. Her friend Jennie, a brisk businesswoman, is concerned for her sister, Claire, who seems to have gone missing. As there are no signs of foul play, the police have categorized it as a low priority. Will Elder come and investigate? Reluctantly, he agrees.
Claire’s life was not as quiet as her sister had assumed. It doesn’t take Elder long to find out that she has had a number of sexual relationships with men whom she met over the Internet. But before Elder’s inquiries have got very far, Jennie calls him with the news that she has found Claire’s body, fully and carefully dressed and laid out on her bed. Despite having no apparent wounds or other signs of trauma, she is clearly dead.
Elder immediately thinks back to 1997 and a crime all too similar to this one. The murderer was never found. Taken on as a civilian consultant, he reopens the cold case but as he investigates further, he makes the chilling realization that there may be two killers out there; one who’s tried to rehabilitate himself; the other poised to strike again.
From the Hardcover edition.
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John Harvey is the author of the richly-praised sequence of ten Charlie Resnick novels, the first of which, Lonely Hearts, was named by The Times as one of the ‘100 Best Crime Novels of the Century.’ In 2004, William Heinemann published Flesh and Blood, the first novel featuring retired Detective Inspector Frank Elder. He is also a poet, dramatist and occasional broadcaster.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Behind his spectacles, the boy's eyes were like bevelled glass.
Alice Silverman turned in her chair and adjusted the window blind so that the late summer light fell muted into the room. All of the surfaces — the pale wood table, the backs and arms of both chairs, the long low cabinet of shallow drawers — hummed with a shimmer of honeyed dust. Each drawer in the cabinet was marked clearly with the name of the child to whom it belonged; some, those of the youngest, had an animal brightly painted beside the handle, a dolphin, a diplodocus, a brown bear with outsize feet and a big red bow at its neck.
Close to Alice's slim wrist rested the unlined pad in which, occasionally, she noted down words or phrases in a neat hand, or otherwise doodled, cross-hatching dark corners which might be clouds or trees. Between herself and the boy there were sheets of unmarked paper, some coloured, some plain, and near them a wooden box filled with pencils, chalks and crayons.
'There's plenty of paper here,' Alice said. 'You could draw something. Make me a picture.'
Barely a flicker of response in those eyes.
'It's difficult, isn't it?' Alice said. 'Part of you wants to, but part of you doesn't.'
She had asked him before, not asked him, chivvied him, told him. Needing a response. Something she could push against. Not wanting him to be too comfortable. None of those nambypamby social-worker questions — What had he done in the holidays? What was his favourite group, the Beatles or the Stones?
Alice looked at him and the boy shuffled awkwardly on his chair until he was sitting almost sideways, head down, face angled away.
The Stones, she thought, it had to be. For her, at least.The words to 'Mother's Little Helper' running through her head. The thrust of Jagger's skinny hips, cruel lewdness of his lips.
A shiver ran through her and she sensed the boy stiffen as if somehow he had noticed.
The referral had come from the boy's teacher initially, not based on any one particular thing, more an accumulation of incidents that had alerted her to some underlying malaise that went beyond the norm. Sudden mood swings, outbursts of temper, tears; several occasions on which he'd soiled himself in the playground or, once, in class; an incident, quite possibly misinterpreted, between himself and the school secretary when they had been alone in her office, something vaguely sexual.
Alice had read the reports, hummed and hawed, finally found a place in her schedule. Almost five years now since she had finished her training, three since taking up her post with this authority. The younger children, seven, eight, nine, she felt less anxious with, more in control. Boys like this though, edging eleven, slightly built but with something threatening about them nevertheless, something confrontational beating just beneath the skin . . .
Sensing the allotted time drawing to a close, Alice allowed herself to glance down at her watch; capped and uncapped her pen, then told herself not to fidget. A cup of tea and a biscuit: two more sessions and then she was through. Another day.Tonight there was a Buñuel at the Film Society. Viridiana. Maybe she'd go along, take her mind off work, relax.
'All right then,' Alice said, as brightly as she could. 'I'll see you again next week.'
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