The Yorkshire ripper is still going strong and the failure of the Yorkshire police to catch him is a cause for concern. But of course David Peace is offering much more than that simple synopsis in the dark and poetical world inhabited by corrupt cops and killers.
To sort out the problems of corruption Peter Hunter is sent in from the Manchester force to set up a squad looking into the way that the Ripper enquiry has been handled. His secret brief is to try and discover if the Yorkshire force has been guilty of corruption to the extent that it has compromised its own ability to solve the crime.
Hunter is seen as a trouble shooter unafraid of unpopularity and already aware, from a previous brush with a Post Office raid condoning inspector, about the problems that are waiting for him on the other side of the moors.
But added to the story of foiling corruption that is so long established and so interlinked that it is almost impossible for an outsider to crack the importance of relationships, juxtaposed events and the significance of certain geographies. Hunter does his best but is also haunted by his own failure to have children and his dependent wife.
He finds that he is caught out in a classic suggestive compromise linked to a dodgy businessman and when he starts to get close to a secret, which is not yet fully understood by the reader, he is rewarded with having his home burnt down.
Just as with 1974 certain crimes and places act as a magnet and out of the past comes the character of BJ. Former informer for Dunford and well connected the tortured figure attempts to reach out to Hunter and inform him about the past. He fails not because he comes across as a madman but also because Hunter is simply unable to put it all together and see things for what they really are.
The climax sees Hunter clinging on like so many others not just to his sanity but his life. He has been to hell and back suffering nightmares and visions.
The fact they capture the Ripper is down to a stroke of luck but even then the most contientious crimes are denied leaving them back in doubt. Who really killed them is something that Hunter gets close to but because he doesn’t understand the motive he misses. Likewise those that could spill the beans are haunted by the past and in too deep to reveal the truth.
But what is truth in a world where night brings nightmares and visions that overlap with the horrific events of the day? What is truth in a world where your friend and neighbour can also be a killer and the policeman you trust someone who is worse than a criminal?
It is with those questions buzzing round your head that you step onwards to the conclusion and 1984.