An abandoned Southwark warehouse burns next door to a women's shelter for victims of spousal abuse. Within it lies the charred corpse of a female body burned beyond all recognition. At the same time, workers at Guy's Hospital anxiously discuss the disappearance of a hospital administrator -- a beautiful, emotionally fragile young woman who's vanished without a trace.
And in an old, dark, rambling London house, nine-year-old
Harriet's awful fears won't be silenced -- as she worries about her
feuding parents, her schoolwork . . . and the strange woman who
is her only companion in this scary, unfamiliar place.
Gemma James and Duncan Kincaid -- lovers and former partners -- have their own pressing concerns. But they must put aside private matters to investigate these disturbing cases. Yet neither Gemma nor Duncan realize how closely the cases are connected -- or how important their resolutions will be for an abducted young child who is frightened, alone . . . and in serious peril.
A serial arsonist nutter is on the loose in London in Crombie's assured 10th book starring Scotland Yard Det. Supt. Duncan Kincaid and his lover/partner Det. Insp. Gemma James. When a nude, charred female corpse turns up in a burned warehouse, the police discover that the unidentified victim, one of four possible women, was murdered beforehand. Duncan and Gemma also look into the abduction of 10-year-old Harriet Novak, a pawn in her parents' ongoing acrimonious divorce. As the investigation by both fire officials and police evolves, it becomes clear that the abduction is connected to the murder. Young, eager firefighter Rose Kearny, who found the body in the burning building, works the case on her own and comes up with a theory that may explain the arsonist's unusual motive. Fanny Liu, confined to a wheelchair, fears the worst when her roommate goes missing, and a nearby home for battered women apparently connects several aspects of the case. It's a web of gossamer-thin clues that police, under the patient Superintendent Kincaid, work to untangle as they race against time to find the imperiled Harriet. Myriad subplots that have accrued from past entries slow the action in places, but Duncan and Gemma are such interesting and attractive characters that few readers will mind.