Detective Inspector Geraldine Steel has made a move to a new area in the Southeast, a member of the mobile Murder Investigation Team. Barely has she settled into her new home than a series of bizarre murders plagues the squad, the victims all blonde and young. The team is bedeviled from the first by a lack of evidence or sustainable suspects, the only common denominator Woolsmarch Park, where each new victim is found.
A broken romance left behind, DI Steel is nothing if not married to her job to the exclusion of any personal life. It is Geraldine’s habit to immerse herself in the facts of each case, sorting, sifting, until a pattern emerges and catches her attention. This very personal approach to her work makes Steel such an interesting protagonist - and one likely to have a shelf life as her adventures continue - the mechanics of each investigation laid bare as the detectives tackle every detail, from an old boyfriend of the victim with a reputation as a batterer to passersby who may have seen someone in the area.
Russell describes a force obsessed with the minutiae, with countless interviews and
re-interviews, understanding that most cases are solved by diligence rather than luck. Tough as she is, even Steel is no match for the Detective Chief Inspector on the case: Kathryn Gordon, a woman who has had to prove herself on the way up the ladder. Nor does young Detective Sergeant Ian Peterson miss any opportunity, watching Steel as the pressure builds to solve the case, even when she would prefer he mind his own business.
The plot is tight, the characters realistic: the eccentric, unpredictable murderer; a local teacher who meets him accidentally and comes to regret the encounter and the violence that ensues; and the wife of a council member with her own agenda - to organize terrified neighborhood women. But everything pales against the swift, brutal murders and the man who hides so easily in plain sight, used to being overlooked and discounted: “He was playing hide and seek. And when he found me… he was going to kill me.”
Steel’s compulsion puts her own life in jeopardy in a stunning climax where the DI nearly becomes the next victim, the mist in the park closing in on her muffled screams. Geraldine Steel is a character I will happily follow into the next case, a fearless investigator with a special talent for ferreting out criminals, even when it puts her in danger.