The novel starts with mass murder. One of the key for Grace’s investigation is the bullets used for the murders, which are hollow-point bullets. A hollow-point bullet is an expanding bullet that has a pit or hollowed out shape in its tip often intended to cause the bullet to expand upon entering a target in order to decrease penetration and disrupt more tissue as it travels through the target. These bullets are lethal, and we learn in the novel that using them is illegal in the United Kingdom.
Grace discovers that the bullets used in the crimes have the army seal. This means that the armourer has used the empty casings disposed of by the army to be filled, and she finds out that the casings come form the Stanford Training Area (Stanta). Stanford Training Area (STANTA) is a British Army training area situated in the English county of Norfolk.
Another element that is constant in the novel is the police federation, which is some kind of union that helps its members and their families. The Police Federation of England and Wales is the statutory staff association for police Constables, Sergeants, Inspectors and Chief Inspectors in the 43 territorial police forces in England and Wales. Under UK labour law, the police are prohibited from joining ordinary trade unions to defend pay and working conditions because of the view that a police strike would pose an exceptional public safety risk. The PFEW was originally established as an alternative system, which would serve to represent staff, and where disputes could be resolved through arbitration so long as the government (as employer) continued to bargain in good faith. Members can elect not to pay subscriptions and thereby not receive the legal representation and other benefits that paying members receive, but they still continue officially to be members of the Federation.
Colin reminds Grace that she has signed the Official Secrets Act when she tries to defy him on the matter about Peter’s death. The Official Secrets Act is a term used for legislation that provides for the protection of state secrets and official information, mainly related to national security. People working with sensitive information are commonly required to sign a statement to the effect that they agree to abide by the restrictions of the Official Secrets Act. This is popularly referred to as “signing the Official Secrets Act”. Signing this has no effect on which actions are legal, as the act is a law, not a contract, and individuals are bound by it whether or not they have signed it. Signing it is intended more as a reminder to the person that they are under such obligations.
The clue that gives Grace some lead to follow comes from a photo that Lance showed her taken in Vale do Lobo in Portugal’s Algarve where he stayed for compassionate leave after Peter’s murder. Vale do Lobo is a golf resort located in the Algarve region of Southern Portugal. The resort has two golf courses, the Royal and the Ocean, and hosted the Portuguese Open in 2002 and 2003. Vale do Lobo is the first of the three corners of what is today known as Algarve’s Golden Triangle.
When Gordon Church is murdered, Grace talks to one of the police officers who is involved as the man’s liaison in the offender management programme. The National Offender Management Service is an executive agency of the Ministry of Justice responsible for the correctional services in England and Wales.