Fifth in the Wycliffe series, first published in 1974. A prostitute is found murdered in her flat, in circumstances that suggest a sex crime. But it’s obvious to Wycliffe’s team that the suggestion is deliberate, and they need to consider other motives. The only clue they have initially is that the young woman was clearly well educated and intelligent, with a clientele willing to pay a premium for that. With that, they soon trace her real name and background — the daughter of a well-to-do man, but both parents dead some years earlier, leaving only her and her brother.
As Wycliffe and his team trace the woman’s professional and personal contacts, they find more than one motive for murder. But nothing seems to quite fit the normal patterns. Lily was exploiting pillow talk to make money, but not in a way likely to provoke murder. She had some dubious connections with a record of violence, but they seem well-satisfied with the relationship. There has to be something else the team aren’t seeing, but it takes an arson attack and another death before Wycliffe has enough pieces of the puzzle to start to see a pattern. And even then, he’s not sure if it’s another pattern deliberately created for him to see — and if so, what it’s meant to hide.
Another well-constructed police procedural from Burley, with the clues laid out just clearly enough for the reader to stay slightly ahead of Wycliffe. As ever, much of the pleasure in the book is in the characterisations, giving it a good re-readability factor. However, I’d note that this is another title in the series which features a gay stereotype character and the normally tolerant Wycliffe’s homophobia as a significant element.