This a police procedural detective story, with a lot of detail. Very much the kind of thing I like.
A serial rapist-murderer is on the loose in genteel Hampstead and DCI Tom Allen and his team are exhausted and depressed by their failure to find the killer. When the body count reaches five, Allen is replaced by a younger man, the fast-tracked graduate Simon Collinson, now a Detective Superintendent. This is due to police politics and the need to deal with the press, baying for a result. As Allen is an old-style copper, the kind with a ‘copper’s nose’, he naturally resents this and resolves to pursue his investigations alone. His colleague, DI Metcalfe, feels for his old guvnor but plays it by the book, supporting Collinson and shutting Allen out. Metcalfe has another problem: his irresistible attraction to the distractingly gorgeous DC Karen Willis.
Unfortunately for Metcalfe, Willis has a partner, Peter Collins. He’s extremely brainy, with three degrees in psychology and a doctorate in criminal behaviour. He’s also odd, dressing as though he’s time travelled from the past. Willis suggests that the team invite Peter to join them unofficially as a profiler. He does so and draws up a profile of the type of person likely to commit such a bizarre series of killings. The police then (slogging away), search for such a man and find him. But is he guilty? Allen doesn’t think so.
Although firmly set in the present day, this book constantly references the Golden Age of detective fiction. Some of the police investigators, like Collinson, are well read in it. Metcalfe gets confused when fiction starts to merge with reality and he finds himself acting in a Dorothy L Sayers pastiche, which the author obviously enjoyed writing. To say more about that would be just too much of a spoiler.
I’d previously read Guy Fraser-Sampson’s Mapp & Lucia sequels, which were well done. His first venture into detective fiction is very clever. To be honest, I was slightly disappointed by the solution to the mystery but that didn’t stop me enjoying the book very much. Murder in Profile will be part of a series called The Hampstead Murders and I’ll certainly be reading the next one.
Murder in Profile will be published by Urbane Publications on March 17th and I read it courtesy of NetGalley.