Ashford's tightly plotted novel begins with the kidnapping of the young, affianced daughter of an English lord. But neither the lord nor the police receive any ransom demands. When, two months later, the woman is released, having been raped and infected with HIV, the cops assume the snatch to have been the work of bumbling amateurs too stupid to snag any money for their trouble. They couldn't be more wrong. It's young Detective Constable Carr who first learns how smart the kidnappers are. Carr's wife is in the hospital dealing with a difficult pregnancy and a related depression, but the young copper soon encounters further trouble. After Carr is seduced by a prostitute, he becomes the object of blackmail for Trent, the leader of the kidnappers, who coerces the constable into revealing important information about police plans to protect another potential kidnap victim. When the urbane Trent does strike again, the stakes are considerably higher, and the authorities must act swiftly to get the victim back safely. Poor Carr occupies the uneasy moral center of the tale. Is there a way he can simultaneously fulfill his professional duty and escape hurting his wife? Ashford (The Bitter Bite, etc.) has fashioned a career for himself as an astute observer of the criminal mind who wastes few words in his tightly constructed narratives. Once again, his skills as a miniaturist do him proud. (Jan.) FYI: Jeffrey Ashford is a pseudonym of Roderic Jeffries, who also writes the Inspector Alvarez series (see review of Maze of Murders, above).