Gwen Moffat lives in Cumbria. Her novels are set in remote communities ranging from the Hebrides to the American West. The crimes fit their environment, swelling that dreadful record of sin in the smiling countryside cited by Sherlock Holmes. The style echoes this: rustic charm masking horror.
Adam Knox, physician extraordinary, subsidises his practice located on the fringe of LA’s skid row by means of lucrative house calls (cash up-front, no questions asked). Skilful, responsible but overworked.
Late one Friday evening Knox is ready to collapse in his flat above the shop with a joint and a six-pack when a badly injured prostitute walks in to the surgery with a traumatized toddler. His world is plunged into chaos.
From this point the child is the focal point. Not only because he’s five years old, and virtually mute after some shattering experience but within minutes his mother abandons him, escaping by the back of the building as CCTV reveals two thugs trying the door at the front.
With his loyal but resentful staff left holding the baby, Knox trawls the sleazy neighbourhood searching for the mother. He’s soon made forcefully aware of other people on the same mission yet it would seem that some have as much interest in the child as with the woman - but all are lethally hostile towards those who are harbouring them.
Although it seems obvious that the mother is a working girl; Knox is increasingly suspicious that there are higher stakes involved than those held by pimps and people-traffickers. There is more than a whiff of Eastern Europe here as the trail leads from the squalor of skid row by way of bordellos and gangster pads to the board rooms and penthouses of home-grown tycoons as vicious as any oligarchs.
As he confronts savage hirelings and the powers behind them Knox is not alone. He is able to call on the services of an amazing cast of characters headed by Sutter: procurer of those dodgy house calls; handler and protector; a man possessing all the advantages of mixed ethnicity, and a brain like a scalpel, an arsenal of weapons always to hand. Then there are the clinic’s medical staff: loyal to the bone; adept; intelligent and bloody minded, trying in vain to act as a brake on their boss’s volatile behaviour. The characterisation is delicious, confrontations continuous, thrills on every page. The villains are horrid, the goodies ambivalent, and the abused come up fighting. A simple but glorious roller-coaster read.