The notion of a ``Second City'' within London, an uneasy alliance of new money and old poverty set in the Docklands area, has proved a singularly effective one for Butler, whose copper John Coffin (last seen in A Coffin for Charley) has steadily risen through the ranks. Here, two of his policemen have died in apparent accidents. Coffin, suspicious, dispatches Phoebe Astley, a onetime paramour, to a clothing boutique suspected of laundering money, as part of an undercover operation. Then a charred body found near a strange tree seems to have belonged to the wife of one of Coffin's dead cops. But little is what it seems to be. Phoebe disappears and an unattached head (one item in a large body and body-part count) is sighted floating in the Thames. The frightened woman in charge of the store and the secretive pensioner who labors on artistic artifacts beneath the eerie tree are just two of the many odd souls who inhabit this brooding tale. Butler has fun teasing us with the identities of the dead, and Coffin's actress wife Stella Pinero, who manages to be both likable and thoroughly theatrical at the same time, adds some levity to these dark proceedings. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 12/04/1995 Release date: 12/01/1995 Genre: Fiction
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