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by Jo Bannister

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A town gripped by fear.

It begins with contaminated yogurt in a supermarket. Next, the tampering of showers in a girls' locker room. Caustic soda in baby powder. Cholera in cough medicine. An anonymous note promises much more — unless the town of Casltemere pays a ransom of one million pounds.

Superintendent Frank Shapiro, recovering from a

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A town gripped by fear.

It begins with contaminated yogurt in a supermarket. Next, the tampering of showers in a girls' locker room. Caustic soda in baby powder. Cholera in cough medicine. An anonymous note promises much more — unless the town of Casltemere pays a ransom of one million pounds.

Superintendent Frank Shapiro, recovering from a bullet wound, has been cleared for desk duty. But with Sergeant Cal Donovan on holiday cruising the Castlemere Canal, he must rely on Inspector Liz Graham as hysteria rises and the fine line between savagery and civility grows narrower by the day.

The situation worsens when the detectives learn Donovan's abandoned boat has been found near the tiny village of East Beckham — and that the volatile sergeant is believed dead by the hand of the blackmailer. Yet stranger twists are still to come, for guilt and innocence wear ever-changing faces, as does evil.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In Bannister's seventh superior police procedural set in the town of Castlemere (The Hireling's Tale, etc.), Det. Insp. Liz Graham and Supt. Frank Shapiro must scramble to identify a psychopath whose alarming hoaxes--tainting a yogurt container and a school water supply with jelly--indicate how easily he could do real harm to the entire community. Then a young man turns up at the local hospital with what appears to be cholera, contracted from a bottle of contaminated cough syrup. Frightened townsfolk start to panic. Meanwhile, Det. Sgt. Cal Donovan is on forced holiday, exploring local waterways in his houseboat with his dog and battling a nasty cold. When he disappears, his co-workers fear that he, too, has been infected with cholera. Instead, he has sought refuge in the little village of East Beckham, a community that had fought for its survival from a similar threat years earlier--and that is highly suspicious of outsiders, including Donovan. In this crowded ensemble, the author skillfully delineates the main characters: Shapiro through his wit, Graham through her ambition and drive and the loner Donovan through his captivation with a small, odd child. Lovers of police procedurals will appreciate the good detective work that relies on intellect as much as muscle power. A simple, atmospheric jacket design offers a perfect complement to the text. (Nov.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Sent off on a holiday to recuperate from a near-fatal attack (The Hireling's Tale, 1999), Castlemere CID sergeant Cal Donovan has barely maneuvered his narrow boat ten miles up the canal from home when delirium from pneumonia sets in. When he awakens days later, he's in the care of secretive Sarah Turner, her fey, slow-witted granddaughter Elphie, and autocratic Dr. Chapel, informal paterfamilias to the close-knit villagers of East Beckham. Meanwhile, Donovan's superiors, Supt. Frank Shapiro and Insp. Liz Graham, short-handed and overwhelmed by an urban terrorist who has intimated he could easily taint supermarket yogurt with botulism, pour acid into the school showers, and douse the baby lotion at the chemist's with a caustic contaminant, try to recall Donovan by mobile phone and, when he can't be reached, send out a search party. They find his boat, his dog, his warrant card, but not Donovan, whom they presume to have drowned. Stunned by grief and outraged by the threat of Castlemere vigilantes, Graham and Shapiro concentrate on their immediate problems, sending the perp scurrying to a children's home to lob vials of plague at the residents. Even if they can somehow thwart the madman and his self-appointed scourges, they wonder, how can they face the prospect of a Castlemere CID without Donovan? The braiding of Bannister's two plots is meandering and never quite believable. But through their scars, the Castlemere triumvirate of Shapiro, Graham, and Donovan has acquired an emotional depth that pushes this series to the front ranks of British procedurals.Christie, Agatha SPIDER'S WEB Adapt. by Charles Osborne St. Martin's Minotaur (223 pp.) Nov. 2000

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Castlemere Detectives , #7
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Stacking shelves at the Castlemere branch of Sav-U-Mor was the best job Tracey Platt had ever had. It was regular, it paid well - well, better than most jobs available to an unqualified sixteen-year-old - there was overtime, and as long as you didn't actually do the damage yourself there were perks in the form of dented cans and battered boxes. Plus, Sav-U-Mor was an American supermarket, so shelf-stacking here was the closest Tracey was ever likely to get to working abroad.

Moving steadily along the cool cabinet, bringing forward the unsold goods and stacking the new ones behind them as she'd been taught, Tracey Platt didn't see much wrong with the world. For a girl from The Jubilee, who had neither the ambition nor - Tracey believed in being honest with herself - the intellect to succeed as a criminal, she thought she was doing pretty well.

Until, reaching mechanically to bring to the front the last of the weekend's unsold yoghurts, she saw something that shouldn't have been there. Tracey stopped in her android progress and, frowning, leaned forward for a closer look.

Tracey's vocabulary didn't stretch to the word 'botulism', but if it had been a regular ingredient of yoghurt it wouldn't have been written in thick black letters on a sticky label. Tracey could recognize a threat when she saw one. She took a rapid step backward and called for help. 'Mr Woodall. Mr Woodall! Mr Woodall!!' she cried, shriller and shriller until he appeared at her shoulder.

The under-manager leaned forward until he could see what was bothering her. Then, too much a gent to shake her, he squeezed her hand and said, very calmly, 'That's enough, Tracey. Now, let's both walk away - very carefully ...'



It was October now so the photographs in the tourist brochures were no longer legally binding. The canal was brown. The buildings on Broad Wharf were brown, and brown clouds lowered out of the sky and dropped their cargo like celestial tankers dumping toxic waste while God wasn't looking. Even the swans, those without the foresight to swallow a fish hook and get themselves sent to a sanctuary for the winter, had a khaki tinge.

It was ten o'clock on a Monday morning so the last unwilling schoolboy had trudged through the gates of Castle High and on all the long stretch of towpath between Mere Basin and Cornmarket only three living souls were in sight. Undaunted by the weather or lacking the wit to get out of the rain, depending on your point of view.

Detective Inspector Liz Graham, who was one ofthem, inclined to the latter. She saw nothing admirable about defying something as relentless as the British autumn. It was weather for staying inside whenever possible; for fighting over the parking space nearest the door; for sending lower ranks out for the morning doughnuts.

It was not a day for taking your house for a drive.

For as long as she'd known him Donovan - the second living soul - had done this at intervals: disconnected his power supply, coiled up his warps and taken his narrowboat Tara off into the inland waterways. It was the only kind of holiday he took. He was a canal buff: he knew where all the locks were, how they operated and how long it took to negotiate each one. He came back with photographs of sluices and windlasses which were so devastatingly boring they acquired a kind of fascination.

This trip, though, he was avoiding locks as much as possible. He was still creaky from the bullet that carved a finger-deep trench below his ribs four months earlier: he didn't need to pit himself against tons of black timber every few miles. Also, he had a cold. With the black hair hanging in rats' tails in his dark angular face, his bony shoulders shrugging the collar of his black oilskin coat up around his ears and a cough rattling in the depths of his chest, he was as good an advertisement for the joys of boating on the Castlemere Canal as. Yul Brynner was for hair tonic.

'You need a sou'wester,' Liz observed judiciously.

Donovan barked a laugh. He wasn't into headgear. He wore a motorcycle helmet because he had to; Liz couldn't remember seeing him in any other kind ofhat. It was a small grief to her that she hadn't known him as a beat copper in a woodentop. Frank Shapiro reckoned Donovan was transferred to CID precisely because he was so unconvincing in uniform. CID was the only branch of the force in which not looking like a policeman was an advantage.

'All I need,' said Donovan heavily, blowing his nose and swigging fiercely from a little brown bottle marked 'Philbert's Cold & Flu Remedy: Use Sparingly', 'is for the frigging rain to stop.' His voice was thick with phlegm, but thicker still with the mid-Ulster accent he was determined to carry to his grave.

'Have you seen a forecast?'

He nodded grimly, raindrops splashing from his nose. 'More of the same.'

'Well, for heaven's sake,' said Liz, running out of patience, 'tie the damn boat up and try again later. You're supposed to be looking after yourself. They won't clear you for work until you're fit.'

'They cleared the chief,' growled Donovan.

Liz hid a smile. Donovan had been deeply offended that Superintendent Shapiro - fat, fifty-six and recovering from a bullet in the back - had been considered fit for duty by the same doctor who had rejected him. 'The chief does his best work sitting down. You do yours at the run. It makes a difference.'

The other difference, that she didn't mention, that she wasn't sure he'd been told about, was that no question had arisen over Shapiro's psychological state. Division was concerned that Detective Sergeant Donovan had taken too many injuries in too short a time; that if it wasn't a psychological problem gettinghim into all this trouble he must have one as a result of it. Either way, they wanted him a hundred per cent before they'd let him tackle so much as a second-hand car dealer suspected of clocking. Take a trip, said the doctor, try again when you get back.

Liz thought the break would do Donovan good too, but not for that reason. She had no reservations about his mental well-being. Donovan was passionate about his job, would go on doing it day in and day out until someone made him stop. Sometimes it was her, sometimes Shapiro; sometimes Fate dropped a heavy hint in the shape of a broken bone. It wasn't a psychological problem, it was just the way he was: a natural extremist. He did everything to excess. Division had him down as a loose cannon; Liz knew that the only thing wrong with Donovan was that he tried too hard. But in a grindingly hard and dangerous situation there was no one she'd sooner have at her back.

And because she wanted him back where he belonged she was here to see that he did as he was told and took his holiday. She'd rather have been waving him off on a charter flight to Greece, but sun and sand weren't Donovan's native habitat. If cruising the fens was the jolliest thing he would contemplate then it would have to do.

But she still didn't know why it had to be today, in drenching rain and with a man-sized habit in paper handkerchiefs.

Of course there was a reason, even if it made sense only to Donovan. If he started today he could have his holiday and get over his cold at the same time; then he could say he'd been on a cruise, passhis physical and be back at work by mid-October. There was nothing magical about October, he just didn't want his sick leave dragging on into another month. He didn't know how Queen's Street had managed without him this long.

But Liz Graham was his superior officer; they had an easy relationship these days but not easy enough for him to say as much aloud. 'Get on your way, boss, there's no point both of us getting soaked. Er ...'

When he didn't finish Liz looked at him through the veiling rain and saw embarrassment on his gaunt features. 'Sergeant?'

'Look out for the chief.'

She didn't actually need telling. Three months earlier there'd been some doubt if Frank Shapiro would walk again. He'd made an excellent recovery, but this first week back at work was bound to find weak spots that hadn't bothered him at home. There would be a period of readjustment, and if he needed someone to lean on Liz's was the shoulder of choice.

'I will,' she said softly. 'I'll look after him, you look after yourself, and I'll see you next week.'

'If you need me before that,' Donovan began hopefully.

'It'll be just too bad,' Liz finished briskly.

'I'll be going up the Castlemere canal to Posset, by the Thirty Foot Drain as far as Sinkhole Fen, then across by the Sixteen Foot Drain to join the Arrow at Foxwell Dam and home by the river. You can leave a message at the Posset Inn, at Sinkhole engine house or at Foxwell lock.'

He might have been speaking in Sanskrit. 'Or I could dial your mobile number.'

He scowled. 'It's on the blink again. I don't know why everyone else's works and mine's always acting the lig.'

Liz glanced around but refrained from stating the obvious: that they weren't designed to work under water, that if he lived in a house and drove a car his phone would work as well as hers. 'Donovan, I shan't need you; but if I do I know where to find you. If you're going, go. But for pity's sake, don't be too long before you tie up, dry out and get a hot meal. You won't pass your medical if you come back with double pneumonia.'

He gave her his saturnine grin. Then he whistled to the third living soul out of doors that inclement morning, and the great black dog bounded back up the towpath and hurdled the rail on to Tara's forepeak. Leaning down Donovan engaged the engine and the note deepened as the screw bit into the brown water. Liz stood back and watched him steer the unwieldy craft out into the canal like Charon setting off across the Styx. But after a couple of minutes Tara was no more than a blur viewed through the closing curtains of rain, and she turned away and strode up the walkway to where she'd left her car in Brick Lane.

Even when the time came for looking back, she had no sense of premonition - no awareness as she saw him off that she might not see him again.



Superintendent Shapiro, back in his office at the end of the second-storey corridor, looked up at the sound of her step and beckoned her through his open door. 'Come and look at this.' He was studying a yoghurt pot in a plastic bag.

She looked. 'Lunch?' she hazarded.

His rumpled face, uncharacteristically brown from having the time to sit in his garden, spread in a grin. He'd missed her. He'd missed the job, but also the relationships that went with it. His friends were all police officers. 'Do I look like a healthy eater?'

The simple answer was no: he looked like a man who snacked on chip butties. 'I thought perhaps you were coming out.'

Shapiro shuddered. All he knew about health food was that it was brown. 'It isn't my elevenses, it's a Clue.' Somehow he managed to pronounce the capital letter.

Liz's interest quickened. 'To what?'

'Ah,' he demurred. 'I haven't actually got a crime yet; but I expect one'll be along soon.'

He'd succeeded in confusing her, which was an achievement for his first day back. 'Perhaps if I go out and come back in again ...?'

Shapiro waved her to a chair, passed her the yoghurt pot. The plastic bag was marked 'Evidence'. 'A shelf-stacker at Sav-U-Mor found it this morning.' He also managed to invest the name of Castlemere's biggest supermarket with his disapproval of its spelling.

Liz took it carefully. 'Is the yoghurt still inside? In fact, was it yoghurt inside?'

'No,' said Shapiro. 'And yes, but not exclusively.'

The pot contained - or had done - natural unflavoured yoghurt with a sell-by date three days hence. The foil top had been partially lifted. 'Forensics did that,' said Shapiro. 'When we got it the lid was intact.'

Turning it in her hands Liz found what had alarmed the shelf-stacker. An address label tacked to the back of the pot bore the legend, in large black felt-tipped letters: 'This could have been botulism.' She put it down, a little more quickly than she meant to. 'Could have been?'

Shapiro nodded. 'In fact it was lime jelly. All it would have given you was a nasty shock.'

Liz frowned. 'But if the lid was intact, how ...?'

'You tell me.'

She kept looking. Finally she saw it: a pin-prick hole in the bottom of the plastic pot sealed with a bead of clear material. 'Hypodermic?'

He nodded. 'And?'


He nodded some more, approvingly. 'I don't know why we need a laboratory. A good eye can tell you as much as anyone in a white coat.'

'It couldn't have told you if the lime jelly was contaminated with botulism,' said Liz. The thought of it made her shudder. Every week - twice if she couldn't get Brian to do some of it - she brought home a car-boot full of groceries. It never occurred to her that any of them could have been tampered with. A hypodermic of lime jelly had destroyed that confidence for ever.

Which was, presumably, the idea. 'Blackmail?'

'No demands yet,' said Shapiro. 'It could just be somebody messing around - making a point, proving how easy it is? Perhaps a disgruntled former employee out to embarrass the supermarket.'

It was certainly possible; but it wasn't safe to assume it was merely a bad joke. 'If it is blackmail, what does the store want to do?'

'The manager will do what head office tells him. It's a big multinational, apparently, head office is in Seattle. For himself, he'd rather pay than risk injury to his customers.'

It was the compassionate response. But it would make blackmail the easiest, safest, most profitable crime in the book: everyone who asked for money as an alternative to doing something unpleasant would be paid. It had to be resisted, even if there was a price.

'What are we doing?'

'Dick Morgan's looking through the security tapes. Scobie's going over the supermarket's employment records with the manager, looking for someone who left in a huff. Mary Wilson - when did she join CID, anyway? - is on the computer, looking for anyone in the area with a bit of previous. What else can we do? Patrol the aisles, challenge customers who take too long choosing between mango and fruit-of-the-forest?'

Liz couldn't think of anything he'd missed; nor did she expect to. He'd been off for four months: it was maybe just long enough for his acuity to drop to where the rest of them were on a good day. 'Mary came upstairs while you were trying to convince the doctor that if Ironside could crack cases from a wheelchair you could certainly do it on crutches. It's early daysbut I think she'll do well. She always had more gumption than the other Whoopsies.'

She heard herself saying that and cringed. After the effort she'd put into storming the male citadel of criminal investigation, Liz of all people should have found a better shorthand for Woman Police Constable. But habit dies hard; and she'd been called a lot worse when she was one. And indeed since.

'No fingerprints, I suppose.'

'Only the shelf-stacker's.'

'What about the writing?'

'Done with a stencil. You can buy them at stationers, for writing posters and the like. Stencil, marker-pen, address labels - all standard lines, unless he's carrying them round with him we'll never trace them to one individual.'

'When did all this start?'

'Eight-oh-seven this morning. I was on the job by twenty past.'

Liz glanced over and yes, he looked as smug as he sounded. She smiled. 'Welcome back, sir.'

Shapiro beamed. 'Thank you very much.'



The infuriating thing about the security tapes was that the culprit was almost certainly on them. Sav-U-Mor's under-manager Tony Woodall was able to identify the yoghurt as part of a batch which arrived on Saturday morning. The earliest it could have been on the shelf was 10.15 a.m., and the damage had been done before the store shut on Sunday. Tapes covering the entireperiod, with the cool cabinet clearly visible, were still available.

DC Morgan watched them all, then he watched them again. Then he watched just those sections where somebody was hovering over the yoghurt. In the end, square-eyed, he trudged round to Shapiro's office and shook his head glumly. 'I've seen it. I've probably seen it half a dozen times. But I can't spot it.'

The snag was that the cabinet was against the wall and the camera was in the middle of the ceiling, so anyone looking at the yoghurt had his back to the lens. Morgan had never realized how popular yoghurt was. Half the population of Castlemere must have helped themselves from that cabinet over the weekend. Those who knew what they wanted, took it and left could probably be discounted because of the time needed to do what was done.

'How long, do you suppose?' asked Shapiro. 'To inject a yoghurt pot, seal the hole and hide it at the back?'

DC Morgan was not an ambitious police officer but he was a thorough one. He'd mimed it out, against a stopwatch. 'Depends whether he did it on the spot, sir. If he did, not less than twenty seconds and probably more like half a minute. And that depends on there being no interruptions. The other possibility is that he bought a pot, left the store, tampered with it, then returned and put it at the back of the shelf. In that case he could do it very quickly but he'd appear on the tape twice.'

Shapiro was impressed. 'And does anybody? - appear twice.'

'Oh yes,' said Morgan wearily. 'Men; children; women with prams, women without prams; old age pensioners, Rastafarians, and a man in a beret with only one arm. We can probably discount him - unless he got a mate to hold the pot for him.'

Shapiro breathed steadily. 'You're telling me we have pictures of an incident taking place, we just can't isolate them.'

'That's about it, sir. Of course, if we get a suspect we can look back at the film and see if he's there.'

'And in the meantime ...? '

'Maybe Scobie's having more luck.'



When Detective Constable Scobie played rugby, which he did until the ENT surgeon said that if he broke his nose once more he could set it himself, he specialized in tackling. Teammates theorized that he didn't even want the ball, he just liked knocking people over. Opponents suspected he was on week-end leave from Broadmoor.

It was a style of play he used in his professional life too. By the time Sav-U-Mor's under-manager had spent half an hour answering his questions about present and former employees, those who left under a cloud and those who might have wanted a payback, he was beginning to feel like a suspect himself.

'Constable, if I knew who was responsible for this I would tell you. I don't. I can't think of anyone who might be.'

'Someone is.'

'Obviously. But I don't think it's a member of staff;not current and not recent. There's always some turnover but we haven't had to sack anyone for months.'

'How many months?' asked Scobie.

'Three, maybe four; and that was an elderly cashier who was getting too forgetful to manage the till.'

'It's not manual strangulation we're talking about, it's injecting jelly into a yoghurt pot. My old granny could do it, if she had enough of a grudge.' The faintest of bells tinkled in the back of Scobie's mind.

'The cashier I'm talking about couldn't hold a grudge for three months: she'd forget what she was angry about. And it's hardly rocket science, is it? - it didn't take three months to set up. If she'd wanted to embarrass us she could have done it the day she left.'

'All the same,' said Scobie doggedly, 'I'll pay her a visit. To eliminate her from our inquiries. Name and address?'

Tony Woodall shrugged, looked back his records. 'Mrs Alice Marsden, 27a Cambridge Road.'

Scobie blinked. 'Ah.'

Woodall stared at him. 'You don't mean she's done this before?'

'No - no.' Incredibly, the detective was blushing. 'Actually, Mr Woodall, Alice Marsden is my granny.'



DC Mary Wilson had done a course on using the Police National Computer. But though the various databases gave her a list of criminals operating in the Castlemere area, and another list of people who had committed this kind of crime in the past, no names appeared on both lists. The computer didn't know of anyone livingin or around Castlemere with a history of corporate blackmail.

She shook her head apologetically. 'Sorry, ma'am, nothing. Maybe if we get some more information about him?'

Liz nodded resignedly. She hadn't expected any more. The computer was a tool of criminal detection, not a substitute for it. 'One thing, Mary - there's no need to call me ma'am. The boys call me Guv, Donovan calls me Boss, the people downstairs call me Mrs G - at least, they do when I'm there. Any of them's OK by me. Ma'am makes me feel like minor royalty opening a swimming pool.'

Wilson grinned. 'And we call Mr Shapiro the chief.'

'That's right.'

'Even though he's no longer a Chief Inspector but a Superintendent?'

'Now he's the other sort of chief. Sitting Bull. Geronimo.'

'Crazy Horse,' offered Wilson.

Liz shook her head. 'No, we're saving that in case Donovan gets promoted.'

Wilson chuckled. 'Does that make me Minihaha?' With her frank blue eyes and her blonde hair cut in a pageboy bob there was something engaging about Mary Wilson. But people who worked with her quickly found she was a much tougher proposition than she looked.

Which was as well, because she'd need to be. Liz remembered being at this stage of her career. It had seemed to go on for ever. The glass ceiling had seemed to be made of rock quartz. The sense of relief whenshe went as Detective Sergeant to DI Shapiro, and finally found herself treated as a fellow professional, was almost enough to make her cry.

Wilson said, 'They all seem to be men.'

Liz was still thinking about detectives. Then she realized the conversation had moved on. 'Oh - blackmailers, you mean? What, all of them?'

Wilson shook her head. 'Not blackmailers in general, but those who try to extort money from big companies. According to the computer anyway.'

Liz considered. 'Still, don't jump to .conclusions. It could as easily have been a woman.'

'Well, maybe not,' ventured Wilson; and Liz knew it took courage for a new DC to contradict her DI and respected her for it. 'Physically, yes - but what about mentally? Even now, most women have families and most women shop for them. You don't muddy a pool you want to drink from. I'm not sure anyone who buys food for her children could bring herself to contaminate food for some other mother to buy.'

Liz nodded slowly, digesting. 'Good point. Perhaps it would be rash to rule out mothers as suspects, but it might make sense to concentrate first on any single men who come up.'

A pleased blush warmed Wilson's cheeks. She'd been here a month and already she was being taken seriously by senior officers. Today the glass ceiling looked like cellophane.

CHANGELINGS. Copyright © 2000 by Jo Bannister. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information, address St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.

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Meet the Author

Jo Bannister lives in Northern Ireland, where she worked as a journalist and editor on local newspapers.Since giving up the day job, her books have been shortlisted for a number of awards.Most of her spare time is spent with her horse and dog, or clambering over archaeological sites.She is currently working on a new series of psychological crime/thrillers.

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Changelings 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago

The timing of the first incident in the American supermarket in Castlemere, England could not have been better planned. Since Detective Sergeant Cal Donovan is on leave recovering from a bullet wound and a nasty cold, he takes his narrowboat Tara and goes off on one of his watery holidays. Superintendent Frank Shapiro also recovering from a bullet has just returned to the desk, but is not cleared for any other duty. That leaves Detective Inspector Liz Graham as the sole field operator of the successful trio.

The supermarket occurrence involved the threat of poisoning yoghurt. The tampering of the high school showers follows the food incident. Though seemingly harmless pranks, the Castlemere police take it very seriously especially when a woman¿s hands are burned by baby powder. The supermarket head office sends Mitchell Tyler to help the police stop a devious criminal. The brass calls Donovan back to duty to assist with a town on the verge of uncontrollable panic and hysteria, but the law enforcement official apparently is dead.

CHANGELINGS is the seventh delightful appearance of the Castlemere trio. This book is an exciting police procedural that focuses on the conflict between ¿punish the guilty¿ vs. ¿protect the innocent¿. The story line provides a great understanding of the prime players so that series fans learn more about their heroes while new readers gain insight into the various character traits of the threesome. The plot succeeds because the maniacal thug feels genuine and his actions plausible (think the Tokyo subway a few years ago). Jo Bannister continues to expertly write tales that are some of the sub-genre¿s best novels.

Harriet Klausner