Nothing starts a book off right like having someone getting their arm chainsawed off by a career criminal. Amazingly enough, it turns out to be self-defense.
That pulls us into the story. But it is not quick to action, at least for DI Barton. Instead, we pop into the POV of a prisoner, and how he has always been top dog in prison, but he’s older now, slower, and can’t take down the prisoners who attack him in his cell (which he shares with the career criminal’s son). This takes up a good part of the beginning, since this is where the prisoner is getting to the area of the prison where the child molesters are. There, he discovers that the father of his best friend is in the same block. His best friend committed suicide in front of this prisoner and the career criminal above, as his father had moved on from abusing him to abusing his younger brother. He figures justice needs a little help, since the man was going to be released soon (as were a few others on the block, including the POV prisoner) so he smothers the old man in his cell.
Now Barton makes an appearance, as any unexplained death in the prison has to be investigated. From the looks of it, it’s just old age. Barton and one of his team members, Strange, interview the 60 or so inmates on the block, looking for a possible killer. They’re all creepy in their own way, but none seem like killers. The autopsy reveals some things that may be consistent with suffocation, but then again, may not be. Result: inconclusive, leaving Barton to figure it out.
Then one of the released pedophiles is found dead, and Barton believes it’s all connected, so his team starts digging. Are they being targeted? If so, by whom,and why, other than they’re all scumbag deviants?
It’s a good investigation, and flows along smoothly, with occasional scenes from Barton’s home. His mother has dementia, with moments of clarity, but he and his wife and kids are happy to be able to spend whatever time she has left with her.
As the story moves toward its end, the bodies are piling up, and strangely, the prisoner who killed the old man in prison turns out to be a bit of a sympathetic character. the pedophiles, not so much.
There aren’t any real draggy parts in the middle/guts of the investigation. I’ve not read any other books in the series, and that made keeping track of all the people on Barton’s team a little difficult. Additionally, they have a shared history that would have been helpful to know about before going into this book, but it can be read as a standalone.
Generally, I’m not a fan of mysteries where there aren’t enough clues for the reader to determine who the murderer is, but the mystery is so complex here, and the story well told, so that issue is offset for me.
Four and a half stars out of five, rounded up to five.
Thanks to Boldwood Books and NetGalley for the reading copy.