At first, the murder scene appears sad, but not unusual: a young woman undone by drugs and prostitution, her six-year-old daughter dead alongside her. But then detectives find a strange piece of evidence in the squalid house: the platinum credit card of a very wealthy - and long dead - steel tycoon. What is a heroin-addicted hooker doing with the credit card of a well-known and powerful man who died months ago? This is the question that the most junior member of the investigative team, Detective Constable Fiona Griffiths, is assigned to answer.
"Not the best thing I've ever read, but..."
DC Fiona Griffiths is bored. It's been months since she had a good corpse, let alone a decent murder to deal with, and it's frankly driving her nuts. And then comes the news, and she has to literally stop herself from jumping with joy: not just a murder but a decapitation, with an antique sword no less, and a murder scene that has been laid out like a particularly gruesome crossword clue.
When DC Fiona Griffiths says 'yes' to her policeman boyfriend, it's an affirmation that she wants finally to put her psychological breakdown behind her, and become a resident of 'Planet Normal' like everybody else. But she still can't resist the challenge of an undercover policing course, and finding it remarkably easy to assume a new identity, she comes top of the class. So when an ingenious payroll fraud starts to look like the tip of a huge criminal iceberg, Fiona is selected to infiltrate the fraudsters' operation.
A marine engineer who tumbles off a cliff path on a windy night. A burglary where everything taken was returned by the thief. The suicide of a man in love with life. An accident, a mystery, an unexplained tragedy. And nothing at all to connect them. Until, that is, Detective Constable Fiona Griffiths, searching for something - anything - to take her mind off the tedious job of evidence cataloguing she's been assigned to, starts to wonder if all three incidents are not quite what they seem.
When the body of a young woman is found in an old 'dead house' - the annexe where the dead were stored before burial in medieval times - of a tiny Welsh church, it seems that past and present have come together in a bizarre and horrifying way. For DC Fiona Griffiths, the girl - a murder victim whose corpse was laid out with obvious tenderness - represents an irresistibly intriguing puzzle, given Fiona's unusual empathy with the dead.
Corpse candles. Phantom funerals. The bird of death. It was insidious.... For Bethan, the schoolteacher, the old superstitions woven into the social fabric of her West Wales village are primitive and distasteful. Which is why she's pleased to welcome the sophisticated newcomers: London journalist Giles Freeman and his wife, Claire. Surely they'll let in some fresh air.
"Beautifully atmospheric, subtle horror"
It is 1880, in the Opera House in Paris. Everybody is talking about the Phantom of the Opera, the ghost that lives somewhere under the Opera House. The Phantom is a man in black clothes. He is a body without a head, he is a head without a body. He has a yellow face, he has no nose, he has black holes for eyes. Everybody is afraid of the Phantom – the singers, the dancers, the directors, the stage workers.
For rookie detective constable Fiona Griffiths, her first major investigation promises to be a tough initiation. A young woman and her six-year-old daughter have been found brutally murdered in a squalid flat, the single clue a platinum credit card belonging to a millionaire businessman who died in a plane crash six months before. Fiona, however, has secrets of her own. She is still recovering from a crushing psychological breakdown, and the feelings that haunt her are constantly threatening to undermine the mask of normality she has learned to wear.
The second novel featuring recovering psychotic DC Fiona Griffiths opens with as intriguing a pair of murders as you could imagine. Firstly, part of a human leg is discovered in a woman's freezer, bagged up like a joint of pork. Other similarly gruesome discoveries follow throughout a cosy Cardiff suburb, with body parts turning up in kitchens, garages and potting sheds. And while the police are still literally putting the pieces together, concluding that they all belong to a teenage girl killed some ten years earlier, parts of another body suddenly start appearing.
She looked after them. But who would look after her? When fourteen-year-old Sara Jenkins rescues her baby sister, Myfanwy, from the fire which kills their mother, little does she realise the burden of responsibility she is taking on. Her father, Ifor, is perceived as strict and moral by everyone in the village. But as Sara struggles to look after Myfanwy and their home she discovers the depths of cruelty he is capable of. Then Ifor remarries, and Sara's new stepmother is a hard taskmaster who considers everything Sara does inadequate or wicked.