Oxford isn't the dignified and scholarly town portrayed by Colin Dexter or, most recently, S. J. Bolton. In Robotham's latest book, non-academic people have their problems, too. Three years ago 15-year-old Piper and Tash disappeared. Tash has suddenly turned up, frozen to death in an iced-over river. Where is Piper and where have they been all these years? Part of the book is Piper's narrative, so we begin with the assumption that she's still alive.
Joe was in town to give a speech and he gets co-opted into helping the local police. Joe calls in Victor. Joe's character is similar to Val McDermid's Tony Hill, but without as many of the tics and autism. Joe's tics, as it were, are related to his Parkinson's disease, which is slowly but relentlessly consuming him. In fact, Robotham and McDermid are peas in a pod, with McDermid having slightly bigger and darker peas. In Joe's stories, psychology trumps brute force.
That's not to say there isn't action. After about 350 slow-moving but meticulously crafted pages, it was hard to turn the last 80 pages fast enough.
I hope the next book is Victor's. He's gruff, tough, bright, direct, loyal. He's a Rottweiler of a man. (Actually, I hope Robotham brings back Ali Barba.)