With the rumoured transfer of Chief of Police Mark Lane, London's competitive drug lords are on edge. In the past, Assistant Chief Constable Desmond Iles has managed to maintain the peace on the streets in an old-fashioned system of give a little, take a little. But suddenly Iles is in danger of losing his power when the new chief constable comes to town, and the drug gangs begin a struggle for dominance.
With a dangerous mix of greed and fear, the looming threat of a stricter police force, and three sudden deaths, all sides are preparing themselves for a full-scale battle of the ugliest kind.
'Essential reading' Independent
Desmond Iles is in trouble, and that's enough to give a new jolt of energy to James's long-running series (Naked at the Window, etc.) about the dapper, devious, demented Assistant Chief Constable of an unnamed British Midlands city and his colleague and primary antagonist, Chief of Detectives Colin Harpur. Here Iles faces two challenges: a tough new chief constable may replace his well-meaning but clueless boss Chief Constable Mark Lane and crush Iles like a bug; and one of the city's three top drug magnates is rumored to want Iles dead. Harpur disapproves of his superior's style of policing, and despite Iles's distaste for using undercover agents (who have a bad habit of being killed) Harpur plants a sharp young female detective inside the smallest of the three drug operations. The titular young woman with the shapely rear is the 18-year-old daughter of a recently deceased "grass," or informer. Fascinated by teenage girls, Iles naturally finds himself attracted to her until she begins to respond favorably to his advances. Once again, it's James's darkly ironic writing that makes this series worth the padding and occasional plodding: "It dismayed Harpur to think of crushed and humbled, though God knew such a malevolent, pirouetting, egomaniac vandal half deserved it, or a quarter. Diminish Iles and you could undermine life's whole fragile scheme, as in the elimination of a species or act of genocide."