Luke Mullen, sixteen year old son of a former, high- ranking police officer has disappeared, presumed kidnapped. While no- one quite dares to voice the fear that he could also be presumed dead, Detective Inspector Tom Thorne is brought in to beef up the squad dedicated to locating the missing boy. The first thing the team looks for is anyone with a grudge against Luke's father, a man who'd put a lot of tough villains away in his time. A list quickly emerges, but Thorne discovers that ex-DCI Tony Mullen has omitted the name of the most obvious suspect; a man who'd once threatened him and his family, and who, after serving time for his original crime, is now the main suspect in a murder which has been unsolved for four years. Is this a simple oversight – understandable considering the trauma of his son's disappearance? Or is it something more telling? Aware that he does not have the luxury of time, Thorne searches desperately for connections and leads, but learns that secrets are as easily buried as bodies, and that assumptions are the enemy of truth.
The first message sent to Tom Thorne's mobile phone was just a picture – the blurred image of a man's face, but Thorne had seen enough dead bodies in his time to know that the man was no longer alive. But who was he? Who sent the photograph? And why? While the technical experts attempt to trace the sender, Thorne searches the daily police bulletins for a reported death that matches the photograph. Then another picture arrives. Another dead man…It is the identities of the murdered men which give Thorne his first clue, a link to a dangerous killer he'd put away years before and who is still in prison. With a chilling talent for manipulation, this man has led another inmate to plot revenge on everyone he blames for his current incarceration, and for the murder of his family while he was inside. Newly released, this convict has no fear of the police, no feelings for those he is compelled to murder. Now Tom Thorne must face one of the toughest challenges of his career, knowing that there is no killer more dangerous than one who has nothing left to lose.
Il cadavere è nudo, inginocchiato sul materasso di uno squallido albergo di Londra. La testa è coperta da un cappuccio, le mani, legate con una cintura, sono protese in avanti come in preghiera. Il killer l'ha violentato ripetutamente. Poi l'ha strangolato. E alla fine, prima di dileguarsi, ha ordinato una corona funebre. Non saranno in molti a piangere la morte di Douglas Remfry, reduce da sette anni di reclusione per aver violentato tre giovani donne. Ma all'ispettore Thorne della squadra crimini speciali della polizia di Londra non interessa il passato della vittima. Il suo compito è trovare l'assassino e consegnarlo alla giustizia.