Hunter’s earlier novels set in Oxford have both been bestsellers. Unlike many authors, she isn’t fascinated by academic rituals and rivalries, focusing instead on the tensions in a city where wealth is unevenly distributed. The missing father is a lecturer, but he has been struggling to keep up appearances, needing help from his family to live on a desirable street in north Oxford. DI Adam Fawley has the grim task of establishing who died in the fire, relying on harrowing forensic evidence, and who might have wanted them dead. Hunter’s novel is a tour de force, providing one plot twist after another without losing sight of her characters’ vulnerable humanity.