When a man is found in the middle of Alfreton Road in the early hours one Sunday morning, stark naked and bleeding heavily from a chest wound, he is the latest in a series of viscous attacks on men.
Enquiries in the mean-streets of Nottingham's red-light district have brought the investigations to a dead end.
Charlie Resnick is the man for the job. And as if he hasn't had enough to deal with, he now has to provide police protection for a celebrity at the annual crime convention - an author with some very unpleasant 'fan' mail.
Chronically short-staffed as he is, it's a guessing game as to when Resnick's lack of manpower will have fatal consequences.
Up to now, Harvey hasn't set his Nottingham copper Charlie Resnick on a false step as the jazz-loving, culinarily adept, love-crossed inspector and his disparate colleagues have probed their way through the urban demimonde of industrial northern England. But Harvey lurches into cozy territory this time, as Nottingham hosts a mystery convention. On the scene are a successful American hard-boiled authoress and a prissy English grande dame of letters with a diminishing readership. Both have devoted underlings. As the American writer receives threatening letters in the mail, a knife-wielding prostitute has carved up a series of johns, the last one fatally. Harvey abandons noir narrative angles for noir lore, dropping the names of real-life novelists and movie stars and offering some behind-the-scenes views of mystery conventions. Although he nabs both the writer of the letters and the perpetrator of the fatal stabbing, the divorced and lonely Resnick doesn't find anyone to fill the empty spot in his romantic life. This tale, following Cold Light (1994), stands on its own, but it's the weakest entry in a series that has thus far delivered nothing less than definitive procedural fiction undershot with telling social realism.