When last seen alive, sixteen-year-old Deborah Harrison was on her way home from school. Not long after, her body is found in the local cemetery. A suspect is apprehended and put under lock and key, but Detective Chief Inspector Banks is not convinced. There are too many loose ends: a vicar, accused of sexually harassing a refugee worker, who lies about his whereabouts at the time of the murder; a schoolteacher with a dark secret; a teenage thug who has threatened Deborah and her family with violence. And what about Deborah's own secrets?
In this haunting novel, award-winning author Peter Robinson explores the themes of guilt and innocence, family secrets and family love, loss of faith and redemption.
Moving his ever dependable Yorkshire-based copper, Alan Banks (Final Account, 1995, etc.), to the periphery of this work, the equally dependable Robinson focuses instead on the tragic plight of a possibly innocent man charged with murder. In the process, Robinson adds another level of nuance to his already fully dimensioned fiction and takes a quantum leap as a writer. A schoolgirl is murdered on church ground. Her school bag is left open, and her clothes are disturbed. The local vicar is already embroiled in a sex scandal, and his adulterous wife is wandering drunkenly through the grounds when the body is found. Without a decent motive, but with a plethora of damning evidence, Banks is led to one Owen Pierce, a moody young schoolteacher. Pierce is revealed as a man with enough minor aberrations in his life to fashion a believable criminal. His smutty tastes in literature, photography and teenage women invite easy condemnation, and he is further burdened with a past lover who nurses a deep grievance against him. If Banks has occasionally appeared a shade too decent and placid in past works, this eighth appearance finds him with a new, sharper edge. Banks is still a kindly enough soul, but he knowingly occupies a world that has suddenly become more richly treacherous.