In her literate and well-crafted thriller, Elizabeth Corley’s protagonists—Sergeant Louise Nightingale of the West Sussex Police Department and her superior officer, Detective Constable Andrew Fenwick—are caught up in an investigation that ultimately sends Nightingale on hiatus in Devon and forces Fenwick into a race against time to stop a serial killer from claiming his most desired victim. It all begins when Nightingale serves as a decoy to capture a suspect in a series of rape/murders. She escapes with her life, the attacker in jail, the city breathing a sigh of relief.
A series of telephone hang-ups begins with a regularity that disrupts her nights, culminating in an overt act of violence. Nightingale has reached her limit, unwilling to accept a transfer directed by her superiors and feeling increasing threatened in the breached security of her own home. Long harboring a secret attraction to DC Fenwick that seems unreciprocated, Louise is ready to resign from the force but agrees to a much-needed leave of absence thanks to Fenwick’s counsel, leaving the city without telling anyone her destination. Fenwick’s internal radar is activated by a break-in at Nightingale’s apartment soon after, for the first time questioning whether authorities have got it right with the arrest of murderer Wayne Griffiths. His guilt is indisputable, but there may be more to the story.
Though Fenwick is consumed by the nerve-wracking chase of a killer mimicking Griffiths’ murder scenes, lost in a warren of purposeful distractions and misdirection, Corley holds nothing back from her readers, mapping out an ingenious plot as a nameless madman strikes unsuspecting victims. As Nightingale disappears into the wild coastline of Devon, where she will untangle the mystery of a twisted family history, Fenwick pursues a man who operates with impunity and a talent for disguise, his actions bearing a striking similarity to the crimes of Wayne Griffiths. Even more worrying, Fenwick suspects that the recent killings are intimately connected to Nightingale, that the young detective he has grown to admire is ultimately the target of the man leaving a trail of bodies behind him.
Now a widower, his private life touched by recent tragedy and raising two young children alone, Fenwick has not been emotionally available during his wife’s long illness, eschewing romantic attachments and focusing laser-like on the rash of new murders. He leaves no stone unturned, examining not only the recent crime scenes but delving into Griffiths’ history and past connections. Pushing against the reluctance of his bosses in an expensive investigation that takes him into the jurisdiction of other police departments, Fenwick trusts his instincts, willing to bear the consequences of his actions, ever more certain that the killer is heading toward Nightingale—wherever she is.
The race between killer and cop is harrowing, the frequency of killings escalating, a newly refreshed (and oblivious) Nightingale basking in a renewed sense of self, regaining health so recently forfeit to her last case. Unaware of encroaching danger, she begins to repair the dilapidated family estate in Devon, an oasis in the midst of chaos. Meanwhile, Fenwick is nearly frantic, frustrated by the lack of urgency given his requests, driving himself relentlessly to break through the wall of politically sensitive police bureaucracy before it is too late for Nightingale.
The result is an ending rife with tension, a killer intent on—and underestimating—his prey, Nightingale ferocious in her own defense as Fenwick struggles to arrive in time. Never does the pace slacken or the threat decline in intensity, Corley’s murderer an exceptionally devious and agile character. His uniquely twisted personality adds another layer of horror to an exceptional, satisfying thriller, an obsessed killer pitted against a woman who will survive, or die trying.