DI Anna Travis and DCI James Langton have worked on two cases together, both of them problematical at their end. Now, they have been living together for eighteen months. Their relationship and indeed their lives are unalterably changed when, as Langton is about to make an arrest, he sustains horrific wounds when attacked by a machete-wielding man. [The title derives from the wounds inflicted by that instrument.] Anna oversees his care while in rehabilitation and takes over that care in her small apartment after his release from the institution.
Theirs has been a symbiotic relationship: Earlier in his career, "Langston was promoted as a result of a report made by Jack Travis [Anna's policeman father]. In part, that was the reason why Langton had brought Anna onto his team for her first murder case. It was also the reason he had saved her career in the Red Dahlia investigation."
Anna joins a new murder team in Brixton investigating the death of a thirty-nine-year-old librarian whose body has been found by her twelve-year-old daughter. It is a difficult adjustment: "She found it all very depressing: so different from working alongside Langton, whose energy and tireless pressure on everyone around him always paid dividends. There had been numerous other cases she had been involved in before and after Langton; none of the SIOs ever matched him, or even came close." At the end of that case and when, against all odds, Langton returns to duty, he asks for her to join his new team.
The new case in puzzling manner seems to be related to the one Langton was working on when he was attacked: the murder of a teenage prostitute. There are several other murders, involving voodoo, pedophilia, and dismemberment including decapitation, and every line of inquiry turns into a dead end. There is also a lot of information about the problem of ever-increasing immigration, legal and otherwise, in England, as well as its troubled justice system, which at times I found to be overdone. Also constantly in the background is the question of how, or even if, the relationship between Travis and Langton will evolve.
I wanted to like this book much more than I did. I've long been a fan of this author's wonderful "Prime Suspect" series with Helen Mirren on PBS. I'd not read the previous Anna Travis mysteries, "Above Suspicion" and "The Red Dahlia," and the ending hints at another to follow. But I found the pace of this book to be much too slow, with the author constantly reviewing the plot to date, perhaps to lessen in the mind of the reader the complexity of the characters and the various unspeakable acts committed by them. Clarity does not always ensue. But, as always, others' mileage may vary.