Butler's latest novel creates a second branch of Scotland Yard to oversee the historic Docklands district of London, here called Thameswater, where, as major docks of yesteryear are gentrified, the working class rubs shoulders with the elite. In an old church being renovated as a theater, Butler houses an excellently drawn cast of actors, actresses and their associates as well as her sleuth John Coffin ( Coffin in Fashion ), now head of the Yard's new division. From his apartment located in the tower of the church, Coffin is well placed to discover just why someone has delivered the decapitated head and severed hand of an unknown victim to the church. The solution of this crime cannot be reached before a series of murders is literally uncovered in the church's crypt, where several extraneous corpses are found. The tightly constructed narrative offers a perplexing crime, neatly solved, as well as fascinating portraits of intellectuals, children and memorable working-class characters, all interacting believably. A well-researched subplot involves a near-epidemic of a polio-like illness that incapacitates key people in the story. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 07/01/1990 Release date: 07/01/1990 Genre: Fiction
During the Covid-19 crisis, Publishers Weekly is providing free digital access to our magazine, archive, and website. To receive the access to the latest issue delivered to your inbox free each week, enter your email below.