COFFIN'S GHOST by Gwendoline Butler
A Commander John Coffin Mystery
Thomas Dunne, St. Martin's Minotaur 1999/December 2001 (U.S.)
Newly out of the hospital, commander John Coffin of London's mythical Second City police is confronted with a woman's severed arms and legs outside his former home. His thoughts turn to long abandoned affair--could the limbs belong to the woman? When a second women is murdered, Coffin begins to suspect his wife's friends. Yet with all of the police force at his disposal, no one seems to be able to find a real clue, or discover any reason why these attacks are happening now.
Author Gwendoline Butler (see more BooksForABuck.com reviews of mysteries by Butler) does a fine job setting the scene in the 'second city' of London--a city of abandoned warehouses, crime, and poverty, with just the beginning of gentrification brought on by the theater. American readers may find Butler's Englishisms occasionally difficult to follow (although occasionally amusing--I especially enjoyed the police secretary with the pot plant (perhaps potted plant) on her desk).
With multiple murders, a dismembered woman and a decapitated cat, COFFIN'S GHOST should have been a fast-moving adventure. Instead, Butler's writing moves at a ponderous pace, leaving the reader both confused about where the plot is going and lethargic to find out. Coffin's regret over his affair seems more based on his fear of his wife's reaction to it than any realization that he made a mistake, and his treatment of the abandoned mistress is difficult to view sympathetically.
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