La Plante hits a home run in her latest police procedural, throwing a knockout blow that links the murder of a local prostitute to the rape and killing of three Polish immigrant girls. With a title that that becomes dangerously symbolic as the novel progresses, DI Anna Travis faces her toughest assignment yet when a sadistic killer from years past comes back to haunt her with promises of help.
A muddy field not far from London’s Gateway Service Station is the site
of a brutal murder, the victim a white female. Colleagues DI Mike Lewis and DI
Paul Barolli call her to the site, Mike telling Anna that two previous cases with virtually the same MO
were discovered a year apart, and those girls were also dumped beside the motorway after being strangled and raped.
While two of the girls remain frustratingly unidentified (there’s nothing on them - no bags or papers, no DNA, no weapon, and no witnesses), Anna and her team soon ascertain that the first victim was Maggie Potts, an aging prostitute who worked the exists and entrances along the M1 and M3, picking up lorry drivers. But. according to DCI Langton, there
are no leads connecting each victim. All they know for sure is that Potts was earning her keep “shagging punters” from service stations.
Only Emerald Turk, Maggie’s truculent, foul-mouthed friend, can help. Emerald was holding onto Maggie’s suitcase but threw it out as soon as Maggie left.
She did, however, keep Maggie’s small red notebook containing license plate numbers, two thousand pounds, and a red velvet jewel case. With the case going nowhere fast, the more Anna delves into Maggie’s abused past life, the more Maggie becomes mysteriously visible and almost alive.
Anna’s curiosity is piqued when she receives a letter from Barfield Prison and an offer of assistance from Cameron Welsh. Given two life sentences for the murder of two teenage girls five years previously, Welsh is certain the same killer has previous victims. Anna’s blood runs cold at the thought of having to interview him, yet Welsh’s involvement in the case sends the investigation spiraling out into new territory and a direction that eventually leads Anna to fall into the arms of Ken, a handsome Barfield security guard.
Moving from Manchester to London, the desolate back lanes behind London's Gateway refuse to unlock their dark secrets even as La Plante manipulates Anna and Ken’s love affair with the raw mechanics of investigative techniques as the team digs up yet another case with a similar MO: a Polish girl found naked and wrapped in a blue blanket. Then there’s CCTV footage of a Ford transit van belonging to John Smiley. But is Smiley a sinister perpetrator of sexual violence? At Smiley’s initial interrogation, Anna doesn't pick up anything suspicious about him.
La Plante once again proves herself the master of this genre, infusing her grueling story with sadistic depictions of brutality and desire in a case riddled with desperate people, where blackmail encompasses a tragic twist. In typical La Plante fashion, the tension is in the killer's confession as the case accelerates with raw speed into a shocking, melodramatic finale.