In a Sussex town on the south coast of England, a widely disliked art teacher at a posh private girls’ school disappears without explanation. None of her students miss her boring lessons, especially since her replacement is a devilishly hunky male teacher with a fancy car. But then her name shows up on a police missing persons list. What happened to Miss Gibbon, and why does no one seem to care?
Meanwhile, detective Peter Diamond finds himself in Sussex, much against his wishes. His irritating and often obtuse supervisor, Assistant Chief Constable Georgina Dallymore, has made Diamond accompany her on a Home Office internal investigation. A Sussex detective has been suspended for failing to link DNA evidence of a relative to a seven-year-old murder case—a bad breach of ethics. Diamond is less than thrilled to be heading out on a road trip with his boss to investigate a fellow officer, but he becomes much more interested in the case when he realizes who the suspended officer is—an old friend, and not a person he knows to make mistakes.
As Diamond asks questions, he begins to notice unsettling connections between the cold case and the missing art teacher. Could the two mysteries be connected? How many other area disappearances have gone unnoticed and uninvestigated? Diamond and his hapless supervisor have stumbled into a web of related crimes. Will Diamond be able to disentangle them?
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“Are you sure this thing works?” Danny asked Mr. Singh, the gizmo man.
“You want demonstration?”
“I’d be a mug if I didn’t.”
“No problem. Where did you leave car?”
“A little way up the street.”
“It’s the old white Merc by the lamppost.”
“Locking is remote, right?”
Danny dipped his hand in his pocket, opened his palm and showed the key fob with its push button controls.
“Very good,” Mr. Singh said. “We can test. Go to car and let yourself in. Step out, lock up and walk back here. I am waiting on street with gizmo.”
Danny was alert for trickery. He wasn’t parting with sixty-odd pounds for a useless lump of plastic and metal. But if it really did work, he could be quids in. Thousands.
The gizmo, as Mr. Singh called it, looked pretty basic in construction, a pocket-sized black box with two retractable antennas fitted to one end.
No money had changed hands yet, so the guy had nothing to gain by doing a runner. Danny stepped out of the little coffee shop and did exactly as suggested. Walked to the Mercedes, unlocked, got in, closed the door, opened it again, stepped out, locked, using the smart key, and walked back to where Mr. Singh was standing outside the shop with the gizmo in his hands.
“You locked it, right?”
“Sure did,” Danny said.
“Where is key?”
“Back in my pocket.”
“Excellent. Leave it there. Now go to car and try door.”
Danny had walked only a few steps when he saw that the lock pins were showing. Just as promised, the car was unlocked.
He was impressed. To be certain, he opened the door he’d apparently locked a moment ago.
“Good job, eh?” Mr. Singh said when Danny went back to him.
“Nice one. Who makes these things?”
“Made in China.”
“Wouldn’t you know it?”
“Simple to operate. You want to buy?”
“How does it work?”
“Okay. You know how key fob works?”
“Using a radio signal.”
“Right. Sending signal from fob to car. Programmed to connect with your car and no other. But this gizmo is signal jammer. Breaks frequency. You think you lock up, but I zap you with this.”
“Let me see.”
Danny held the thing and turned it over. “All I have to do is press this?”
“Correct. All about timing. You are catching exact moment when driver is pointing fob at car.”
“Hang on. There’s always a sound when the locks engage. And the lights flick on and off. If that doesn’t happen, the driver will notice.”
“Did you notice?”
Danny hesitated. “There was traffic noise and I was thinking of other things.”
“So?” Mr. Singh flashed his teeth.
“In a quiet place the driver would notice.”
“Don’t use in quiet place. Street is better, street with much traffic.”
Danny turned the jammer over and looked at the other side, speculating. “How much are you asking?”
“Seventy, battery included.”
He made a sound as if he’d been burnt. “Seventy is more than I thought.”
“Fully effective up to fifty metres.”
Danny handed it back. “I don’t suppose it works with the latest models.”
“Now I am being honest. Very new cars, possibly no. Manufacturers getting wise. Any car up to last year is good. That gives plenty choice. To you, special offer, not to be repeated. Sixty-five.”
Danny took a wad from his back pocket, peeled off three twenties and held them out.
Mr. Singh sighed, took the money and handed over the jammer.
“Before you go,” Danny said. “There’s something else. This gets me into the car, but it doesn’t let me drive it away. I was told you have another little beauty for that.”
Mr. Singh’s eyes lit up again. “Programmer. Which make? BMW, Mercedes, Audi?”
“I need a different one for each make, do I? How much will it cost me?”
“Two hundred. Maybe two fifty.”
Danny whistled. This was getting to be a larger investment than he planned, but he thought about the top-class cars he could steal. “Let’s say the Bimmer.”
“BMW three or five series I can do for two hundred.”
“Is it difficult to operate?”
“Dead easy. All cars now have diagnostic connector port. You plug in and programmer reads key code.”
“Code is transferred from car’s computer to microchip in new key. You get five blank keys gratis as well.”
“So I can drive off using the new key? Have you tried this yourself?”
“No, no, no, I am supplier only. Supplying is lawful. Driving off with some person’s car is not.”
“But you can show me how the thing works?”
“You come back with two hundred cash this time tomorrow and for you as special customer I am supplying and demonstrating BMW three series programmer.”
Next afternoon special customer Danny drove away from Brighton with the programmer and the pride of a man at the cutting edge of the electronic revolution. In his youth he’d used a wire coat hanger to get into cars. He’d graduated to a slim Jim strip and then a whole collection of lock-picking tools. But the days of hotwiring the ignition were long gone. In recent years anti-theft technology had become so sophisticated that he’d been reduced to touring car parks looking for vehicles left unlocked by their stupid owners. For a man once known as Driveaway Danny it had become humiliating. The Mercedes he was driving was twelve years old. He’d liberated it in July from some idiot in Bognor who’d left it on his driveway with the key in the ignition.
Everything was about to change.
He would shortly be driving a BMW 3 series.
It wasn’t easy to nail one. For more than a week he patrolled the streets of the south coast town of Littlehampton (which isn’t known for executive cars) with his two gizmos in a Tesco carrier bag. The new technology called for a whole new mindset. He wasn’t on the lookout for a parked car, but one that happened to drive up while he was watching. He’d need to make a snap decision when the chance came. If the chance came.
Late Sunday evening it did. After a day of no success he was consoling himself with a real ale at his local, the Steam Packet, near the red footbridge over the River Arun. He lived in a one-bedroom flat a few hundred yards away and liked to wind down here at the end of a long day. The pub was said to have existed since 1840, trading under a different name, because the cross-channel ferry that departed from there hadn’t come into service until 1863. Welcome Aboard the Steam Packet, announced the large wooden board attached to the front with a profile of a paddle steamer—and in case the maritime message was overlooked, the north side of the pub had a ship’s figurehead of a topless blonde (in the best possible taste, with strategically dangling curls) projecting from the wall. With a little imagination when seated in the terrace at the back overlooking River Road and the Arun you could believe yourself afloat. This was a favourite spot of Danny’s, nicely placed for seeing spectacular sunsets or watching small boats chugging back from sea trips. But at this moment, alone in the half-light at one of the benches around 9:30 on a September evening, his thoughts were not about sea trips or sunsets. He’d just decided he’d wasted his money on Mr. Singh’s gizmos. How ironic then that this was the moment when a silver BMW drove up and came to a halt in the parking space across the street.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Detective Superintendent Peter Diamond is dragooned by his superior, Assistant Chief Constable Georgina Dallymore, to accompany her to Sussex on a special inquiry requested by her counterpart to investigate and write a report on the suspended head of the local CID group, Hen Mallin, who, three years earlier, failed to follow up evidence implicating her niece. Diamond, of course, is reluctant to join the effort, until he discovers he knows and had worked with Mallin, believing her to be an excellent detective. The problem is that Mallin freely admits to the indiscretion. So, how can he save her? From that simple brief Diamond (and Dallymore) undertake a broader investigation, not only of the circumstances of Mallin’s error, but a wider look into a series of murders, missing persons and what appears to be a thriving business of hiding the bodies. Ostensibly a police procedural, the novel is a charming and well-constructed tale in which Diamond shines both as a detective and as a person, especially as he has to deal with his superior with kid gloves, subterfuge and witticisms. The plot is cunningly written and little is telegraphed so the reader keeps hurriedly turning pages to find out what happens next. Highly recommended.
This was a good Diamond read.