British writer Butler has crafted a grim tale that unsuccessfully blends murder with social commentary. In 1946, newly promoted detective-constable John Coffin arrives in Greenwich to take up his post. Soon after, the body of a young woman floats down the Thames to South London. It quickly becomes clear that this is no ordinary murder: the victim has been strangled, stabbed and mutilated. Attached to the body is a note reading ``Present for my mother,'' a reference to former actress Rachel Esthart, whose son drowned under mysterious circumstances 17 years previously, and who has just received a postcard promising an imminent gift from the boy, whose death she has never acknowledged. Then two other bodies are found in the river, murdered in the same brutal way. There is no shortage of suspects, among them: a famous actor who was in love with Rachel; the co-owner of the Theatre Royal; the theater's stage manager; and an ex-army mate of Coffin's who is a black marketeer. Coffin's investigation of the murders is complicated by a missing-child case and his own personal search for an unknown sibling. While interesting for its meticulously detailed picture of bleak post-World War II England, the novel's appeal is severely limited by an intrusive, off-putting narrative voice. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1989 Release date: 01/01/1989 Genre: Fiction
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