The Forgotten Murders

An unambitious constable on night tour in a countryside region known as the Tops is nearly run down by a riderless horse--but the ghost horses of folklore do not usually leave murdered bodies in the road, and the initial investigation turns up thoroughly unromantic horse-droppings that have to be carried back to the lab for analysis. Meanwhile, a sabotaged helicopter crashes into the town library, leaving eighteen dead. While the brass and the inspectors deal with that crisis--which is complicated by the appearance of undercover intelligence operatives from London-- an uncoordinated investigation by low-level constables and detectives turns up unhappy evidence about the body found in the road.

John Wainwright is a British author of the Joseph Wambaugh breed, writing from the experience of twenty years in police work. Though the setting (and even the motives) hark back to the classic English mystery, there is no consummate master detective, but rather a collection of overstretched and underequipped men who are distracted by problems at home and by conflicting messages from their commanders. The story, like police work itself, is fragmented and sometimes confusing. Wainwright’s mixture of humor, compassion, cynicism, and authentic detail makes this a convincing--and unsettling--book.