Ponderous, Victorian Compton Castle Psychiatric Hospital makes an ideal setting for the various bodies, mostly of young women more or less dead, discovered planted about its widespread grounds. Temporary patient Sgt. Trevor Joseph has pretty well recovered from devastating physical wounds but needs to overcome their mental complications when he is called to investigate. The ensuing story is as much about Joseph's restoration to normal life and work as about a psychologically warped murderer's desperation and ultimate, total defeat. John provides ample clues and culs-de-sac along the way, fitting all naturally into the development of characters and narrative. Imaginatively conceived, smoothly written, and increasingly gripping, John's procedural should attract and hold readers right up to its explosive conclusion.
Sergeant Trevor Joseph, a clinically depressed survivor of injuries inflicted in Without Trace (1995), is morosely engaging in art therapy at Compton Castle, a medieval pile that's been used as a psychiatric hospital since Victorian times. Joseph's tentative reengagement with the outside world is accelerated by the depredations of a serial killer who has been killing and burying attractive nurses and patients alike, along with the occasional unlucky dog and witness. Soon, Compton Castle is swarming with Trevor's old mates: doing autopsies, devouring fish and chips, and alienating pompous administrators of the sort we'd all be proud to alienate. The body count rises with horrific absurdity as police and staff fail to shut down the violence. But Trevor's spirits, oddly enough, rise. The murderer/psychopath (first among equals, as it were, in this antique snakepit) is caught after a confusing search and a preposterous big bang. Meanwhile, the most successful aspect of John's second effort is the Castle itself, an enthralling palimpsest of architectures and rehabs just waiting for gothic lightning to strike. The author also reveals a provocative sociological savvy that sorts oddly with a geographical setting so vague it could be described as "near the sea."
A curious mixture of the vivid and the unlikely, weighed down by clumsy and often redundant prose.