Detective Chief Inspector Tom Allen of the Hampstead Police Station has been investigating four serial killings of women in the area. Now there’s a fifth, and Allen finds himself replaced by the much younger Detective Superintendent Simon Collison of Scotland Yard. Allen is old school, slogging through solid police work, while Collison is new school, willing to try new approaches to break the clearly dead-ended case.
The MO in each of the killings has been the same. The victims are chloroformed, then raped, then killed with a hammer blow to the head. The fifth killing differs from the first four in the location – the victim was killed where she was found, while the other four had been killed somewhere else and their bodies moved. Other than the manner of death, the victims had nothing in common.
Collison and his team bring in a profiler, and that’s where things become really interesting. The profiler is the live-in partner of a member of the police team, Karen Willis, and he also enjoys acting out – as Lord Peter Wimsey, the Golden Age amateur detective created by Dorothy Sayers.
In Death in Profile, novelist Guy Fraser-Sampson has written an entertaining mystery with more plot twists that you can usually find in police procedural novels.
Allen, the displaced chief inspector, quietly continues his own investigation, and makes connections the official inquiry miss. The competition between Collison and Allen could have been keener, but it happens mostly off-narrative.
Fraser-Sampson is perhaps better known as an investment funds manager and business consultant. He’s a member of the teaching staff of the Cass Business School in London, an investment columnist, and the author of four books on finance and investment. In the history and fiction areas, he’s written a history of the Plantagents, a review of cricket from 1967 to 1977 when the color barriers where breaking down, two successor novels to Mapp and Lucia novels of E.F. Benson, and now this mystery novel.
Death in Profile is the first of what’s envisioned as a “Murder in Hampstead” series. I’m looking forward to reading the next installment.
Top photograph: the police station in Hampstead in north London.