Father Hart comes to Scotland Yard to ask for help. Roberta Teys, the daughter of a farmer, has been found in the barn next to the bodies of her father and the family dog, both of whom have been attacked with an ax. Father Hart begs for someone to investigate the apparently open-and-shut case, as Roberta has confessed to the crime and now refuses to speak. Father Hart says he believes the girl, who seems to be mentally handicapped, is innocent. Barely registering in the background, someone is killing men on the subway.
Inspector Thomas Lynley is given the Teys case, and he has just been assigned Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers as his partner. Havers is a belligerent, untidy working-class woman who is being given a final chance, since she has failed to work well with other supervisors. She believes that the immaculate Lynley, the eighth Earl of Asherton, is nothing but an upper-class fashion plate, playboy, and womanizer.
Lynley is dealing with his own problems, because the woman he loves is about to marry his best friend, Simon St. James. He also bears guilt because St. James is crippled from an auto accident in which Lynley was driving. Lynley is actually relieved to be called away from the wedding reception to deal with the murder investigation.
Lynley thinks the roots of this murder may be in the past. Roberta’s mother disappeared when she was a child. Was she actually murdered? Roberta’s older sister also ran away from home. What happened to her?
This novel and the first books of this series perfectly meet my taste for mystery novels that are on the dark side. I find Lynley and Havers to be engaging, with fully developed personalities. The novels are complex and the plots exciting. I have not tired of the incidental characters, as I often do. I am just sorry that the more recent novels have taken some turns I do not find appealing or interesting, since for so many years, I could rely on an Elizabeth George mystery to be a great read.