cover image No Birds Sing

No Birds Sing

Jo Bannister. St. Martin's Press, $22.99 (308pp) ISBN 978-0-312-14382-4

Castlemere, an English city of about 80,000, isn't usually a hotbed of crime. But in a 48-hour stretch, its coppers have to deal with ram-raiders (a British version of smash-and-grab robbers); a serial rapist; a dog-fighting ring; and a train robbery. In the fourth Castlemere procedural (following A Taste for Burning), Bannister's appealing police trio exhibit their diverse strengths and weaknesses: Detective Superintendent Frank Shapiro is a 30-year veteran with experience and instincts enough to know when to give his staff free rein; Detective Inspector Liz Graham is bright and ambitious and quite likely to be promoted off the Castlemere force; and Detective Sergeant Cal Donovan is the maverick who's too unorthodox to climb the ranks but too valuable to be dismissed. Many procedurals read as if the police had the luxury of tackling each case as a separate entity, but Bannister depicts her force coping with several major crimes at once. She does so brilliantly. While Shapiro coordinates and oversees operations to trap the ram-raiders, both Graham, on the rapist's trail, and Donovan, trying to infiltrate the dog-ring, undergo serious trials by fire. Taking her already accomplished characterization to new levels of depth and intensity, Bannister creates deeply suspenseful situations, resolves them with panache and melds the various themes into an extremely satisfying whole. (Aug.)