I am in a quandary about this book. On the whole I enjoyed it, but I can’t help feeling there was something missing. A murder might have livened things up, but despite my best hopes nobody died.
Amaryllis Peebles (There is one problem identified at least) is a young-ish but retired Secret Service Agent who moves to the quiet town of Pitkirtly, and there joins the Pitkirtly Local Improvement Forum, a disparate band of people who essentially have regular meetings in the local pub out of a lack of anything else to do.
Steve Paxman, a Council Official, turns up at Amaryllis’ first meeting and suggests that the PLIF request funding from the Council in order to restore the derelict village hall. Very soon after, Paxman goes missing and things start to get a bit weird for Christopher Wilson, the chair of the PLIF and carer for his mentally unstable sister and her children.
It’s a novel that hasn’t really made a decision as to what it should be. Is it satire, light comedy, cosy mystery, spy thriller or something else entirely?
Let’s return to problem number one. Amaryllis Peebles is completely the wrong name for this character. My wider view is that it’s the completely wrong name for any character. However, if you are going to use an eccentric name, then it has to be for a good reason, or else in a context where others have eccentric names (no one else does). It also has to suit the character, and this doesn’t. There seems no good reason why such a name should have been chosen. If Amaryllis was hoping to blend in to the background then such a name doesn’t help. It seems like a senseless affectation which should have been abandoned after the first draft. You also have characters called Steve Paxman and Simon Fairfax, which have enough common S’s, X’s, M’s and N’s to cause confusion.
There are points where the reader will wonder ‘What the Hell is going on?’ with good reason, although most of it is ultimately explained. The explanation doesn’t make a lot of sense. There were far easier ways for the bad guys in this book to achieve their objective.
Having said that, there is some wonderful characterisation and it is nice to see Christopher’s view of his PLIF colleagues change as they help him to face various random crises which are hurled at him. Christopher himself is a well-drawn character, beset with problems with his family, his PLIF commitments and the strange creature that is Amaryllis, who has entered his life and seemingly brought turmoil in her wake.
Will I read another one? I’ll give it another chance. I’m hoping that the characters might dictate the next book and help it find out what sort of a beast it wishes to be.
Inspector McLean is once more dragged into supernatural shenanigans when what appears to be a suicide by hanging begins to look like something more sinister when an identical suicide occurs not long after. It isn’t the last.
McLean also has to cope with his love interest coming out of a coma and not knowing who McLean is, and sullen resentment from most of his colleagues. They are not only jealous of his unexpected inherited wealth but consider him a Jonah as other police officers tend to die around him.
Luckily McLean has some people on his side such as the dour sergeant Grumpy Bob and the wonderful Madame Rose, a transgendered medium and book dealer.
These are great books. This one made me miss my stop on the Tube, which is always a good sign. The only real criticism I can level is that McLean, being an intelligent and well balanced detective, seems still in denial about the paranormal hootenanny that’s been going on around him for the last three books.
Madame Rose does her best to convince him as well, but he’s not having it. I don’t understand that. The penny should have dropped by now surely.
And, I’m worried about Mrs McCutcheon’s cat, for reasons I can’t go into. I’m going to have to read the next book for some form of closure.
DI Ray McBain is confined to desk duty following the incidents of the first volume, but is clandestinely working on a cold case involving a woman who calls herself Audrey Hepburn and insinuates her way into the lives of traumatised families only to inflict mental and physical abuse on them.
In this he is assisted by two colleagues who attempt to keep his involvement from being discovered by others higher in the hierarchy.
This is another of the splendid range of Scotland based detective novels I’ve stumbled across of late. Here we are in the Glasgow of a very likeable protagonist, Ray McBain, somewhat in denial about recent traumatic events and their subsequent effect on him.
McBain’s sections are first person narrative, alternating with the third person narrative of Jim, whose life is in turmoil. Following an accident his estranged wife, Angela, has contracted amnesia and he is forced to move back into the marital home to care for her and their young son. She does not yet know that she left him because of an affair he had with her best friend. Then, a woman called Moira enters their life.
One can’t help liking McBain. He is very deftly portrayed as an ordinary man who battles life’s problems with a mordant wit and a weakness for food. He is fiercely observant and intelligent while being honestly and amusingly self-deprecating about his life, his looks and his eating habits. He comes over as a real person, which is often not the case in these sort of novels.
The other characters, although not as lovingly fleshed out, are a nice mixture.
It has a bit of a twist too which took me by surprise and that’s always a good thing.
I need to go check out the first book now. Certainly keen on reading more.
This is a highly enjoyable romp around Aberdeen, a city painted as being beset with relentless rain and snow. DS Logan McRae is part of a team investigating a child killer. Logan is nicknamed Lazarus as he has only just returned to active duty having been stabbed almost fatally by a murderer he recently apprehended.
When another dead child is found the police are under pressure to find the killer, beset by a reporter who has a mole within the investigation as well as the rank and file of angry Aberdonians.
It’s a non-stop adventure which maintains pace throughout and is peppered with colourful characters.
Despite the depressing central theme it’s an uplifting read with some sprinklings of humour here and there, and a nice balance between action and character development.
Logan is, if I have to poke a critical finger at anything, perhaps a little too nice. It might have been interesting to know more of the history between him and Isobel the Ice Queen pathologist. They were once an item, but it ended badly. This certainly adds an extra element to their working relationship but it might have expanded Logan’s character a little to know what went wrong. Detectives generally need some kind of flaw, and his pining for Isobel doesn’t really cut deeply enough.
The deciding question on this is ‘Will I read the next one?’
Absolutely. It’s always a good sign when a book makes me miss my stop. It doesn’t happen a great deal.
MacBride is kind enough to point out in a afterword that Aberdeen really isn’t that bad, and I am presuming he is referring to both the weather and the residents.
I’m hoping that’s true.
I really enjoyed this, the sequel to ‘Natural Causes’. Detective Inspector Mclean returns again with his sidekick, Grumpy Bob and is haunted by thoughts of his fiancée Kirsty, the last victim of the Christmas Killer, Donald Anderson, who has finally died in prison.
However, there is no closure for DI McLean as a body is soon discovered, the body of a woman, with all the hallmarks of Anderson’s MO.
Meanwhile, an arson epidemic is spreading across Edinburgh and DI McLean has to battle against his old enemy DCI Duguid and a media who seem to think that the wrong man was convicted, a man who testified that he was driven to kill by an ancient book called The Book of Souls, a book that went missing following his arrest.
It’s a compulsive read, and rushes along nicely. The only criticism I have is that DI McLean seems to have forgotten his last encounter with demonic possession and murder.
The Kindle edition also includes an early DI Mclean and Grumpy Bob short story. It’s a little rough around the edges, but it’s nice to see where this started.
Edinburgh must be the serial killer capital of Scotland. James Oswald recently introduced us to Inspector McLean in ‘Natural causes’, and now we have DC Cullen of the Leith police (who some may remember dismisseth us), assigned to an investigation of a missing person, a woman who is subsequently found strangled with a rope and stabbed in a cheap hotel. It’s a much grittier Edinburgh than Oswald’s although the characters are slightly less well-developed. For me, both novels suffer from a surfeit of police officers. Realistically, of course, this would be the case, but in the context of a fairly short novel it might have made sense to have conflated some of the officers flitting in and out of Cullen’s investigation into a smaller cast. This would have allowed the opportunity to expand and explore the characters of those remaining.
Surprisingly, Cullen seems to have very little angst, apart from having been betrayed by his ex-girlfriend. He is however, an intelligent police officer battling against an entrenched police culture, internal politics, laziness and stupidity.
I am hopeful however that the sequel will give Ed James the chance to flesh out at least the main characters a little more, as they are quite interesting.
Completely addictive. I loved it. When what seems to be a ritual occult sacrifice of a young girl is discovered in a walled off room of an old building, Inspector McLean is thrown into a mystery from the Nineteen Forties, which seems more and more to be linked with a series of gruesome murders and suicides across Edinburgh.
McLean hasn’t as much emotional baggage as most investigators. His parents died in a plane crash when he was a child and he was brought up by his grandmother, who is in a coma following a stroke at the outset of the novel.
This is one of the best books I have read in a long time. Completely engrossing with likeable and believable characters it is a compelling murder mystery with a creepy supernatural edge, and lots of twists and turns along the way. There’s a reasonably high body count, a set of fairly believable characters (possibly a few too many officers with similar Scottish names if I’m going to be frank) and never a dull moment. There’s even a transsexual fortune teller and an elderly gay couple to add a bit of Edinburgh diversity.
Thank you James Oswald. I look forward to reading more of you.