The sixth book in the Detective Superintendent Roy Grace series finds him, several months after the events which took place in the prior novel, "Dead Man's Footsteps," promoted to head up the Major Crime squad. His nemesis, Assistant Chief Constable Alison Vosper, has been promoted and moved to another part of the country, making his job a bit easier and less stressful. He is presently trying to impress her successor, but finds that effort quite difficult by virtue of the new case he and his squad are working on: Three dead bodies have been found in the English Channel, all their major internal organs quite expertly excised. The ensuing investigation, run along various lines, brings into play a timely issue: the international trafficking of not only humans, but human organs. The author puts a very human face on the tale, introducing Caitlin Beckett, a teenager living for the past six years with serious liver disease, becoming more serious by the day, with her mother desperately willing to do anything necessary to save her life.
On a more personal note, Grace, approaching forty years of age, is finally able to move on, romantically, after his wife's utter disappearance nearly ten years prior, and is hoping to make his relationship with Cleo, the area's chief mortician, more permanent. The cops in this novel, as usual with this author, are truly dedicated, altruistic men and women. Still present, among other cops we have grown to know and love, is Glenn Branson, whose unhappy marital situation has him still in residence in Grace's living quarters.
Parenthetically, I greatly enjoyed seeing Jeffery Deaver make a brief appearance as a drug dealer, albeit a dead one, as well as an homage to Val McDermid as the author of a novel [one which I myself had greatly enjoyed] being read by one of the book's characters. Among my other favorite things about the book was the author invoking two oracles I have loved in detective fiction for years, to wit: one Mr. Conan Doyle, who famously said, "when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth," and the other Occam's Razor, of the true origins of which I was previously unaware - leave it to Mr. James to enlighten me about this as in so many other things! As Mr. James tells it: "Occam was a fourteenth-century philosopher monk who used the analogy of taking a razor-sharp knife and to cut away everything but the most obvious explanation. That, Brother Occam believed, was where the truth usually lay." Both are used to great effect in this case.
The tale is a rather grim one, dealing with a macabre subject, obviously well researched by the author. A hefty book, my one criticism is that it might have benefited from some judicious editing. That said, the novel is recommended.