Library Journal Review
While the serial killer known as the Whistler goes about his grisly business in the area around the Larksoken Nuclear Power Station, Commander Adam Dalgliesh comes to Norfolk to settle his aunt's estate. Slowly, through masses of dialog and ruminations by most of the characters, the complex plot unfolds into the usual Jamesian tangle of human relationships and subplots. The story takes shape as James unwraps each nuance of personality, each intricate piece of the puzzle. Though not as fast paced as Shroud for a Nightingale (LJ 1/1/72) nor as finely plotted as A Taste for Death ( LJ 10/1/86), this latest novel demonstrates just how well James commands the English language and illustrates her considerable ability to craft and write a novel. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 10/1/89; BOMC and Quality Paperback Book Club main selections.-- Jo Ann Vicarel, Cleveland Heights-University Heights P.L., Ohio (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Kirkus Review
Despite ever-growing sales and stature, James' mysteries have been uneven in recent years--without the thoroughly compelling characters and milieus that made her early output so distinctive. And this new, long outing--set in and around a nuclear power-station in remote Norfolk--is, though literate and densely thoughtful, perhaps the weakest James of all thus far, especially since sleuth Dalgliesh plays only a small, wishy-washy role. A serial killer dubbed ""The Whistler"" has been stalking women in the area near Larksoken Nuclear Power Station. So, when the body of the Larksoken administrator, Hilary Robarts, is found on the beach, murdered Whistler-style, the case seems clear--until it's learned that the actual Whistler committed suicide hours before Robarts' murder! Who, then, committed this copycat killing? Was it Larksoken director Alex Mair, who was trying to end his affair with Robarts? Or an anti-nuclear activist in the neighborhood who was being sued for libel by Robarts? Or the alcoholic painter (a widower with small children) whom Robarts was trying to evict from her property? Or a Larksoken colleague out to avenge the suicide (supposedly caused by Robarts) of his homosexual lover? Or--? The proliferation of suspects here, notwithstanding layers of serious, psychological characterization, often seems awkwardly contrived; few of the subplots rise above the mildly interesting; the nuclear setting never becomes satisfyingly relevant. (A tiny terrorism subplot verges on the embarrassing.) Commander Dalgliesh, in the area for a vacation, finds the body and does some 11th-hour detection, but his presence remains shadowy--while the other cops (in contrast to those in A Taste for Death) remain unappealing. Strongly written, then, and thickly readable--but ultimately flabby, pale, and disappointing. Copyright ┬ęKirkus Reviews, used with permission.