Evil Designs has a tightly knit plot revolving around Detective John Webb’s investigation into the bizarre auto-erotic death of his long-time friend, Detective Sergeant Dan Green. Officially the finding is death by misadventure, a finding the department is determined stays that way.
Webb’s refusal to accept the official finding is shared by Green’s 30-year-old daughter Rony. Together they embark on a quest of retracing the crime Green was working on at the time of his death: The disappearance of Tristan Svensson, 10-year-old step-son of the Swedish Consul in Perth. Webb becomes convinced their search will ultimately expose Green’s death as a murder, and lead them to the perpetrator of both crimes.
Harnesses all of his knowledge and experience as a homicide squad detective, Webb embarks on an unofficial investigative odyssey, as he attempts to unmask his friend’s killer. His dogged determination runs foul of Commander Gregson’s efforts to keep the manner of Green’s death, and the truth behind the Svensson boy’s disappearance, a secret. Webb is suspended as suspicion begins to fall on Gregson himself.
Numerous possible suspects emerge as the reader is led through the field of forensics, including a meticulous discussion of Green’s post-mortem examination. Another prominent character, eminent criminologist Ethan Geln, provides a vehicle for fascinating discussions of auto-eroticism and sexual asphyxia, which enhance the plot.
Webb discovers a connection to the ten-year-old mystery of another missing boy. This in turn reveals an astonishing link to a Catholic priest, Father Lutz, who had earlier been acquitted of sex crimes against another child. The spectre of paedophilia is hauntingly pursued throughout the story as Webb discovers that before his death Green had unwittingly stumbled across an international paedophile ring, resurrected from the ashes of the infamous Wonderland Club.
Other well-delineated characters present, such as Reggie ‘the Rat’, Webb’s criminal informant who undertakes to do some “snooping” for evidence of the re-invented paedophile ring, Webb eventually identifies as a group calling itself the Brethren. Rat’s subsequent murder re-ignites suspicion of a powerful criminal “ring”, adding to the unfolding plot which suddenly takes on a faster pace towards its climax.
Interspersed throughout the story are chapters written from the perspective of the unknown perpetrator of the crimes, providing a chilling insight into the mind of the cold-blooded killer and child predator as he ruminates about his perverse predilection.
A series of minor climaxes and anti-climaxes keep the pace flowing at a rapid rate. Later chapters see Webb travel to Thailand, where he tries to pick up Lutz’s trail. It concludes with Webb’s shocking realisation that Rony is in mortal danger from Lutz, who after reconstructive facial surgery has assumed a new identity and gained employment as a pastor at the Svensson boy’s exclusive private school. In a dramatic development Lutz is shot dead by Rony when he attempts to murder her. The subsequent chapters unravel a number of conundrums that have been developed throughout the plot.
Webb returns to Perth and is returned to active service when the existence of the Brethren is incontrovertibly proven. The case appears to be “wrapped up”, except in Webb’s own mind. He grapples with his deductions that strongly infer the involvement of others in the crimes. The final climax and its denouement in the last chapter sees Thomas Svensson, the missing boy’s own step-father, exposed as a senior member of the Brethren and involved in his own step-son’s disappearance. The final confrontation between Webb, Thomas Svensson and his confused wife Erica is played out in the Svensson’s house. The epilogue jumps to the delivery of the Coroner’s findings into the death of Thomas Svensson.