Fear The Stranger David Johnston and Hector Clark Mainstream Publishing u6.99

This is primarily the story of a murder hunt that lasted from 1983 until the conviction of Robert Black in 1994. During that time three children, Susan Maxwell, Caroline Hogg and Sarah Harper had died. The search was led by the author, former Deputy Chief Constable of the Lothian Police Force, Hector Clark. Upon the intervention of a member of the public Black was actually caught red-handed abducting another child.

Only by solid detective work was he connected to the other murders. The police interviewed 189,000 people; took 60,000 written statements and undertook 56,000 separate tasks. Information technology was used successfully on a large scale for the first time.

The book tells of Clark's earlier life and other investigations; it contains his views on the punishment of those convicted of hideous crimes. But above all it shows how personally police officers become involved in major investigations; how close they become to the families of those who are killed; how they come to believe that they 'know' a man is guilty.

Lawyers will always fear such claims and the acknowledged use of "firm" questioning. This case was won because the judge allowed the similar fact evidence between murders and a further abduction to be given and would not allow severance of the counts. It was won because of the detailed investigation painstakingly documented by the police, not one part of which could prove Black's innocence. The author complains of the disclosure rules, but gave full disclosure as he had nothing to fear.

The book is an easy read. It shows that in dealing with crime, hard work and perseverance on the part of the police are more important than reducing the protection that exists for the defence.