A Quick Round Up- Chris Carter- The Gallery of the Dead/ Elly Griffiths- The Dark Angel/ Craig Robertson-The Photographer

Here are three authors that I read on an incredibly regular basis, but aware that they get reviews from far loftier reviewers than myself, here are just a few thoughts on their latest releases…

That’s what a LAPD Lieutenant tells Detectives Hunter and Garcia of the Ultra Violent Crimes Unit as they arrive at one of the most shocking crime scenes they have ever attended. 
 In a completely unexpected turn of events, the detectives find themselves joining forces with the FBI to track down a serial killer whose hunting ground sees no borders; a psychopath who loves what he does because to him murder is much more than just killing – it’s an art form.
 Welcome to The Gallery of the Dead.

There’s always a wonderful sense with Chris Carter that his books have a what you see is what you get feel about them, and that’s not to deride them in any way. I hesitate to use the word formulaic, but you know that there will be a central killer, brutal, mentally unhinged, and with an arsenal of gory methods of despatching their victims, to fulfil their own twisted raison d’etre. With his background in criminal psychology, Carter never fails to unnerve his readers with a plethora of individuals capable of haunting our dreams. The Gallery of The Dead ticks all the boxes as usual…

Deranged killer operating from what he believes is a perfectly normal mind-set

Interesting/bloodcurdling/”ugh gross” methods of despatching victims 

Detectives Hunter and Garcia, (who have acquired a near superhero/indestructible status from their preceding investigations) doggedly pursuing said killer, but wearing their underpants inside their trousers and not over the top of a pair of tights

Hunter beginning to realise that maybe he should be succumbing to his more ‘base’ needs and dallying with a member of the opposite sex 

An absolute belter of a closing line that references an earlier book, and is set to unleash a whole host of trouble for Detective Hunter… 

Some women read delightful nauseatingly pastel books with winsome singletons to turn on, tune in. and drop out. To unwind I read Chris Carter, the master of the dark, the dangerous and the seriously twisted, and The Gallery of the Dead is an absolute cracker.

(With thanks to Simon and Schuster for the ARC)

Dr Ruth Galloway is flattered when she receives a letter from Italian archaeologist Dr Angelo Morelli, asking for her help. He’s discovered a group of bones in a tiny hilltop village near Rome but doesn’t know what to make of them. It’s years since Ruth has had a holiday, and even a working holiday to Italy is very welcome!
So Ruth travels to Castello degli Angeli, accompanied by her daughter Kate and friend Shona. In the town she finds a baffling Roman mystery and a dark secret involving the war years and the Resistance. To her amazement she also soon finds Harry Nelson, with Cathbad in tow. But there is no time to overcome their mutual shock – the ancient bones spark a modern murder, and Ruth must discover what secrets there are in Castello degli Angeli that someone would kill to protect.

I will say from the outset that over the course of the Ruth Galloway books, I have had an up and down relationship with them, but feel almost a sense of guilt if I decide not to pick up the next in the series. The Dark Angel reaches the landmark of ten books, featuring the everywoman character of Galloway, who set apart by her sheer ordinariness, intelligence,  frequent crisis of confidence, and somewhat unbelievably tangled personal relationships, has accrued a significant following of readers in her wake.

I will be honest, and say that this book didn’t really fill me with any sense of satisfaction. As the whole love triangle, now love square, rumbles on unabated, I felt that Griffiths focussing on the machinations of this neglected to provide any sort of interesting plot, despite despatching both Ruth and her on/off/on/off/on/off lover policeman Harry to the steamy surrounds of Italy. The central ‘mystery’ that Ruth finds herself embroiled was all a wee dull, and I didn’t really care who was being killed and for what reason. Also I think that Griffiths has slightly shot herself in the foot, by despatching a character one book too early, as the continuing existence of this person could easily have let them survive a bit longer to spice things up a bit. In fact, the way they were despatched was a bit ludicrous too. Also it felt a bit one-out, one-in as the closing sentence of the book heralds the reappearance of a figure from Ruth’s past, who may or may not add a bit of energy to the series.

On a more positive note, I always appreciate Ruth’s witty asides, and her day to day battles with weight, appearance, and desperately seeking to not say the wrong thing at the wrong time. I love her groundedness, and her professional demeanour, along with the insight into archaeology that arise from the books. I will read the next one, and undoubtedly the next, but unfortunately The Dark Angel didn’t quite hit the spot for me this time.

(With thanks to Quercus for the ARC)

A dawn raid on the home of a suspected rapist leads to a chilling discovery, a disturbing collection of photographs hidden under floorboards. DI Rachel Narey is terrified at the potential scale of what they’ve found and of what brutalities it may signal.
    When the photographs are ruled inadmissible as evidence and the man walks free from court, Narey knows she’s let down the victim she’d promised to protect and a monster is back on the streets.
    Tony Winter’s young family is under threat from internet trolls and he is determined to protect them whatever the cost. He and Narey are in a race against time to find the unknown victims of the photographer’s lens – before he strikes again.

And so to Craig Robertson, whose series featuring DI Rachel Narey, and her other half photographer Tony Winter, does in all senses go from strength to strength. I’ve read every book to date, and there’s not been a duffer yet, and this one ranks easily as quite possibly the most polished and sensitive yet.

The Photographer revolves around the identification of a serial rapist, who seems to be able to defy prosecution, instead given free reign to stir up the misogynistic forces on social media to persecute his accuser, and by extension, Narey herself who is steadfastly working to bring him to justice. I thought this whole storyline was handled beautifully and extremely sensitively throughout, with Robertson not shying from representing the hatred that women endure through sexual violence, and the loathsome trolls of social media who hide behind their keyboards to vent their vicious diatribes and air their foul opinions. I felt that Robertson wrote some scenes with such compassion and depth of feeling that I was genuinely moved, and it is to the author’s credit that he captured this sense of desperation, and persecution so well. I liked the way that Robertson also didn’t resort to a stereotypical sexual predator, which added an extra level of tension in his interactions with Narey in particular, finding herself in confrontation with a successful, intelligent and extremely devious opponent.

As usual, the central relationship of Narey and Winter worked well with the added dimension of their new baby, and as things become more perilous, the welcome reappearance of Winter’s Uncle Danny, who is always a tonic, and a source of comfort to the reader knowing he has their backs. Robertson always achieves a good balance between the professional and the personal, with neither overwhelming the other in terms of the narrative. Likewise his books always have a resounding realism, and it’s always interesting how this resonates with his reader’s own experiences or their views on, or experience of, the issues he constructs his stories around. As usual, highly recommended, and generally a series that it is well worth discovering for yourselves.

(With thanks to Simon and Schuster for the ARC)

September 2016 Round-Up and Raven’s Book(s) of the Month

_DSC0185 (Common Raven)Apologies again for being so off the pace in providing fulsome reviews during September,  due to a period of personal and professional  upheaval in  Raven’s world. Thanks to all of you who’ve sent lovely messages of support- much appreciated. Things are still a little up in the air, but having recovered my reading mojo in the last couple of weeks, I am going to use this post to catch up with everything and hopefully come bouncing back into October. So along with these:

William Ryan- The Constant Soldier

Sarah Ward- A Deadly Thaw

Thomas Mullen- Darktown

here are just a few more of my September reads that you really must seek out for your teetering reading piles. Hope that these short and sweet reviews pique your interest… 

51v0u7ucipl-_ac_us160_I reviewed Matthew Frank‘s compelling debut If I Should Die last year featuring ex-soldier turned trainee police detective, Joseph Stark, and was absolutely enthralled. Between The Crosses sees Stark having cut his teeth, so to speak, and is now a fully badged DC, with a reprisal of police characters from the first book, including the wonderfully feisty DS Fran Millhaven. Again, Frank provides the perfect balance between a gritty and tense police procedural, with a testing investigation for Stark and his cohorts, and his faultless characterisation of Stark himself, haunted physically and emotionally by his past experiences, and the travails and triumphs of his new career. Frank really digs into the day-to-day frustrations of the rank and file in this one, and I strongly felt that the aspects of the book revolving around Stark and Millhaven’s personal and professional tribulations really held the weight of interest in the book, with the actual investigation feeling a little drawn out this time around. Frank excels in his characterisation throughout, and as the parameters of both main protagonists subtly shift at the close of this book, I am looking forward to see how this plays out in the dynamics of the next in the series. Highly recommended.

41a-DHkeVXLI bought this deliciously dark and disturbing read blind, and what a revelation Benjamin MyersTurning Blue turned out to be. A glorious mash up of the staccato darkness of David Peace, fused with Ross Raisin, this book was not only utterly original, but infused with a beautifully realised balance of naturalistic imagery, and a totally compelling tale of sordid murder in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales. Drawing on the theme of the infamous Yew Tree investigations, Myers has conjured up a cast of emotionally damaged characters across the spectrum, with blood chilling moments of revelation, that will haunt your dreams. His use of the brooding bleakness of his Dales’ setting works perfectly in tandem with the very real and flawed characters that he presents to us, shifting our empathy back and forth with each twist and turn in his perfectly plotted drama. Although, I felt that the plot was just a little too extended towards the final third of the plot, at odds with the brevity and sharpness of his writing, I would still highly recommend this to the more stout hearted amongst you. I felt grubby after reading it, but in a wickedly enjoyable way. Excellent.

waking-lions-front-647x1024Next up is Waking Lions from Ayelet Gundar-Goshen billed as a novel with a psychological edge set in Israel centring on the fall out of a hit and run incident, where a privileged doctor, Dr Eitan Green, kills an Eritrean migrant. The book then revolves around his intense involvement, and developing relationship with, the migrant’s widow, and his entry into a world of the desperate and the poor, as she blackmails him into providing medical assistance for the unseen migrant community. Indeed, Gundar-Goshen’s portrayal of Sirkit, and the revelations of her migrant experience were incredibly vivid and compelling, and added a huge emotional weight and interest to the book.  As much as I liked the central premise for the book, I did find it incredibly slow moving, and truth be told, felt no particular empathy for the flaky Dr Green, even when the scales fall from his eyes, and he starts to lose some of his prejudices. His wife, who just happens to be a detective investigating the hit and run, bears little plausible resemblance to a real police officer, and was frankly quite annoying, so this was a real mixed bag for me.

murderabilia-9781471156595_hrBack onto familiar ground with Murderabilia by Craig Robertson, and regular visitors will know I’m an ardent fan of Robertson’s series featuring DI Rachel Narey and her partner, ex-police scene of crime photographer, Tony Winter. Finding herself house-bound and therefore bored witless, Narey becomes immersed in the dark and disturbing world of the Dark Net, following a truly grim murder at the opening of the book (fabulously done), which she is anxious to investigate from the confines of her bedroom, and its link to a cold case which her father worked on many years previously. Focussing on the trade in macabre items associated with murder scenes, Narey, and us as readers, are introduced into a world, that its hard to fathom exists, beneath the everyday familiarity of the internet. This book felt slightly different in style to previous books, in terms of the emotional tension that Robertson layers in to the plot, as the darkness of the central storyline,  the emotional turbulence of Narey’s confinement, and other traumatising events (that I won’t reveal here) all come to a nerve shredding conclusion. Packed full of what no doubt was quite disturbing research, Murderabilia also effectively develops the enforced changes in Narey and Winter’s relationship, but also sees another regular character disappear in distressing circumstances. A one sitting read, and another winner from Robertson. Recommended.

tall-oaks

I absolutely loved this debut- Tall Oaks by Chris Whitaker– and from the rather humdrum synopsis on the back of the book, I have an awful feeling that the casual browser may miss out on a rare treat. Missing child from small American town, and seemingly cardboard cut out characters, did not really sell it to me from the jacket alone. But what a delight this was, revealing itself as a brilliant cross between Twin Peaks and Fargo, and with some beautifully paced reveals that definitely caught this reader on the hop. It made me smile wryly, laugh out loud and gasp in appreciation throughout, with a colourful cast of characters that Whitaker introduces and pivots between seamlessly, slowly drawing us into the connections between them. There are moments of genuine tension carefully interspersed with warmth and humour, as this band of misfits, for various reasons, go about their daily lives, with the overriding urge to make personal and emotional connections with friends, lovers and relatives. It’s wonderfully plotted, and I enjoyed every minute of it. Highly recommended.

honourableAnd finally, An Honorable Man by Paul Vidich, a Cold War thriller set in 1950’s Washington, where a disillusioned CIA officer embarks on his final case tracking down a notorious American/Soviet double agent. Sharing the name George Mueller, with my favourite character in Boardwalk Empire played by the wonderfully hangdog Nelson Van Alden, was a distraction from the start, and to be honest, although I fair whipped through this one, I didn’t really feel that it brought anything new to a well-trod genre. I did enjoy the wonderfully dispassionate writing style and clipped dialogue that Vidich employs, but found the reveals a little obvious, and less well-disguised than the clever narrative tricks of say John Le Carre, the master of the Cold War thriller. An interesting distraction but not quite satisfying enough.

Raven’s Book(s) of The Month:

510-vjvl8ql      tall-oaks     constant

After much rumination, I will go for a three-way split this month between Thomas Mullen‘s Darktown, set in 1940’s Atlanta, with its brooding racial tension, the sheer entertainment factor of Chris Whitaker‘s Tall Oaks and William Ryan‘s elegiac and beautifully written wartime drama The Constant Soldier. A round of applause chaps- well deserved.

 

(With thanks to Faber, Simon & Schuster, Mantle, Pushkin Press, Twenty7, Penguin, Little Brown and No Exit Press for the ARCs)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

January 2016 Round Up and Raven’s Book of the Month

_DSC0185 (Common Raven)As we proceed into the new year, January has found the Raven in slightly pensive mood as to the direction of my blog, and what I review.  Having read fellow bloggers’ reading resolutions, I have decided to come up with a couple of my own….

So, first off, I have pretty much dispensed with my e-reader and consigned it to the interstellar realm of oblivion- a bottom drawer. In my work life I spend my whole day recommending books, proper paper books, and the tactile experience of reading,  and that really is where my heart lies.  I find it such a soulless experience reading on an electronic device , and more often than not just scan down the screen of text so I’m not actually taking in everything I read, which isn’t right for me, or fair to the authors whose work I’m trying to engage with. So from now on, it will be a very rare occurrence for me to read on an e-reader. Viva la book!

I also want to concentrate more on debuts, authors I have not reviewed before, and those strange quirky European delights- a shift of focus that began to a certain degree last year. I will probably post less on mainstream authors as I usually have to read the big new releases as part of my remit as a bookseller, and they are invariably very widely reviewed with a higher profile, whereas I do get a vicarious thrill out of discovering new crime authors and hollering about them. Looking at the next couple of months proof pile, there will be a plethora of debuts hitting this blog!  Obviously, I will still enjoy reading and reviewing  time with my old favourites. You know who you are….

And I have to make time to read more fiction. I had a spell last year where I read over 20 crime books back-to-back, neglecting my overflowing pile of fiction, and leading to a little bit of crime burn-out. There’s some brilliant fiction debuts winging their way to us over the next few months,  I’ll give you an early tip for Anatomy of a Soldier  by Harry Parker out in March- the only book that has ever reduced me to tears, and one of the most honest, harrowing and poignant depictions of war I have ever read. Also there’s some great rediscovered classics coming up for air. Currently in the thrall of Thomas Savage- The Power of the Dog from 1967 which is a sublime mash-up of Annie Proulx and Cormac McCarthy.

So, to January which was chockfull of blog tours, giveaways and some great reads:

BOOKS READ AND REVIEWED

Craig Robertson- In Place of Death

Kevin Wignall- A Death In Sweden

 Nadia Dalbuono- The American

 Ragnar Jonasson- Nightblind 

Tim Baker-Fever City  

Coffin Road book jacketI also read and largely enjoyed Peter May- Coffin Road– a return to the wild outposts of Scotland, with an interesting commentary on the environmental havoc we are waging on our bee populations, alongside an intriguing plotline involving murder and memory loss. Although I didn’t think it was quite as strong as some of his previous books, a Peter May on an offish day is still a delight.

aaaDavid Mark’s Dead Pretty saw a series going from strength to strength, and it is always a delight to spend time in the company of freckled faced detective Aector McAvoy in Humberside. Although I was slightly discombobulated by one of his main characters acting so far out of character, as to be almost unrecognisable, Mark has once again produced an emotional and engaging rollercoaster of a police procedural.

51x9Zv9I5-L__SX323_BO1,204,203,200_And of course, Stuart MacBride’s In The Cold Dark Ground the 10th outing for the wonderful Logan ‘Lazarus’  Macrae and his ex-boss the acid-tongued DCI Steel. Pathos, violence and humour all the way, and always a pleasure, never a chore.

RAVEN’S BOOK OF THE MONTH

theamericanAs I have genuinely enjoyed every book I reviewed this month, this was yet again a tough choice, but Nadia Dalbuono- The American has triumphed. With a  compelling and quixotic central police protagonist, shifting timelines and locations, and interesting commentary on the nefarious and corrupt grip of the Vatican and the CIA,  this intricately researched and gripping tale was an intelligent and hugely satisfying read. Highly recommended and an early contender for the end of the year Top 5.

 

 

Craig Robertson- In Place of Death

cA young man enters the culverted remains of an ancient Glasgow stream, looking for thrills. Deep below the city, it is decaying and claustrophobic and gets more so with every step. As the ceiling lowers to no more than a couple of feet above the ground, the man finds his path blocked by another person. Someone with his throat cut. As DS Rachel Narey leads the official investigation, photographer Tony Winter follows a lead of his own, through the shadowy world of urbexers, people who pursue a dangerous and illegal hobby, a world that Winter knows more about than he lets on. And it soon becomes clear that the murderer has killed before, and has no qualms about doing so again.

Let’s begin the new year as we mean to go on, and start off with a confirmed favourite of the Raven. Despite a brief hiatus in this series, Robertson now takes us back to his exceptional police procedural series, featuring police photographer Tony Winter, and DI Rachel Narey. It is a testament to the strength of the series to date, that I was very quickly inveigled back into the sphere of their professional and personal lives, and In Place of Death, has gained the honour of being my favourite book in the series so far…

With a positively claustrophobic and spine chilling opening, with the discovery of a body in the most inhospitable of locations, Robertson takes us on a weird and wonderful journey into the world of urbexing- the exploration and charting of abandoned, and by extension, dangerous run down buildings, not only in their physicality but by the ne-er-do-wells who can lurk within them! To get another sense of the locations that Robertson draws on throughout the book, I would recommend an investigation of two brilliant photography books, Beauty In Decay and Abandoned Places which give you a further real sense of the beautifully sinister air of neglected buildings and structures and the shadowy essence of life gone by they hold within them. Robertson depicts each location absolutely perfectly as the investigation proceeds, and brings a visual photographic quality alongside the feel and sensory perceptions that each location generates in the reader. As a reflection of the strong sense of location used in the book, the tone of the book is dark and haunting, giving Robertson the opportunity to explore the twisted psyche of a killer to great effect. It’s always gratifying to read a crime novel that goes beyond superficial themes and under-developed sense of place, and with the atmosphere and portrayal of the urbexer’s experiences and brushes with danger, Robertson has achieved this in spades.

Another feather in Robertson’s cap is the strength of his characterisation, not only in his depiction of Tony Winter, a scene of crime photographer who possesses a unique eye, and at times a slightly disturbing type of empathy with the victims that he photographs, and DI Rachel Narey, a headstrong and dedicated police officer whose sense of justice sometimes puts her at odds with her immediate superior officers. Both characters are entirely credible and the reader forms a genuine attachment to them, both in the trials of their working lives, with Winter’s job in the balance, and the potential stumbling blocks of their personal involvement. Equally, Robertson infuses a sense of pathos, through Winter’s unique sensitivity to the victims he photographs, and in this book, with the character of Remy Feeks, who discovers the first victim, leading him on a dangerous path and putting him in the sight of a killer. Usually, there is a cut out and paste depiction of some poor soul (usually walking their dog) stumbling on a corpse, so I liked the way that Robertson made Feeks so integral to the narrative as a whole, and the sympathy his character elicits in us as we become more familiar with his personal life.

Once again, Robertson has produced an entirely satisfying crime read, undercut with darkness, and suffused with a unique sense of place and atmosphere, with a stalwart and credible cast of characters. Still one of my favourites, and eagerly awaiting the next.

(With thanks to Simon & Schuster for the ARC)

 

Craig Robertson- Witness The Dead

Product DetailsScottish Police are called to a murder scene in Glasgow’s Northern Necropolis. The body of a young woman lies stretched out over a tomb in what looks like a ritualistic murder. Her body bears a three letter message from her killer, daubed in lurid red lipstick. In the 1970s, Danny Neilson was the detective working on the infamous Red Silk murders. Still haunted by the memory of the unsolved investigation, he spots a link between the new murders and those carried out by Red Silk – details that no copycat killer could have known about. But Archibald Atto, the man suspected of the killings all those years ago, is rotting in jail…

As I said in my review for the last book Cold Grave, Craig Robertson is a brilliant author recommend both as a bookseller and a reader, perfectly capturing the unique nature of Glasgow in both location and character, as well as proving himself the equal of Rankin and MacBride in the realm of Scottish crime fiction. Despite my huge praise for the last one, I think he has outdone himself here, as once again he shifts the focus of his characterisation using the ruse of a dual timeline (venturing further back than the previous book) and with a nice little nod to the intellectual interplay of another extremely famous crime read. Quid pro quo Mr Robertson.

 Witness The Dead is the third of Robertson’s series featuring Tony Winter, a scene of crime photographer who possesses a unique eye, and at times a slightly disturbing type of empathy  with the victims that he photographs, but unlike Snapshot, the first, and its follow up Cold Grave, this book not only includes the usual characters, but puts into sharp focus Tony’s uncle Danny Neilson, a former policeman, and a case that has always haunted him personally. As Robertson skilfully integrates the rich detail of the 1970’s crimes and subsequent investigation, Winter and his police cohorts, find themselves at the centre of a series of murders that bear a striking resemblance to the Red Silk Murders. I really enjoyed Robertson’s careful and well-realised depiction of 70’s Glasgow, capturing the atmosphere and period detail perfectly, and Danny Neilson’s closeness to the original investigation is central to the emotional punch of these scenes in particular, as he becomes completely consumed by the case.

Likewise, the contemporary investigation, not only gives Robertson his usual latitude with his always entertaining and slightly troubled band of regular characters, but also leads the reader to an interesting mental tussle between Tony, Danny and the intriguing but evil Archibald Atto, the man convicted of the Red Silk Murders. The interplay between Winter and Atto is wonderfully disturbing, as both men recognise in each other, the seed of certain behaviours  that each exhibit  and deal with in contrasting ways- but how different are they really? As the pressure builds to track the modern day killer, Winter and the police team, although infused with the normal  gallows humour that Robertson so wickedly carries off, find the body count growing in direct correlation to the original Red Silk case, leading to a tense and gripping investigation that keeps the reader thoroughly hooked throughout. With the undercurrent of tension between Winter and DS Rachel Narey with the ending of their formerly top secret romance, the tension between Narey and a new doppy DC who infuriates the hell out of her, and the normal blustering of her boss DI Addison being forced into a joint investigation with the equally blustering DCI Kelbie and the antipathy between them, Robertson has produced not only a cracking police procedural packed full of murder, but a brilliantly realised study of the professional and personal relationships of those who seek justice for the victims, whilst trying to keep a grip on their own sanity. A great read.

During his 20-year career with a Scottish Sunday newspaper, Craig Robertson interviewed three recent Prime Ministers; attended major stories including 9/11, Dunblane, the Omagh bombing and the disappearance of Madeleine McCann; was pilloried on breakfast television, beat Oprah Winfrey to a major scoop, spent time on Death Row in the USA and dispensed polio drops in the backstreets of India. His debut novel, RANDOM, was shortlisted for the CWA New Blood Dagger and was a Sunday Times bestseller: http://authors.simonandschuster.co.uk

(I bought a trade paperback copy of Witness The Dead )

Craig Robertson- Cold Grave

A murder investigation frozen in time is beginning to melt. November 1993. Scotland is in the grip of an ice-cold winter and the Lake of Menteith is frozen over. A young man and woman walk across the ice to the historic island of Inchmahome which lies in the middle of the lake. Only the man returns. In the spring, as staff prepare the abbey ruins for summer visitors, they discover the body of a girl, her skull violently crushed. Present day. Retired detective Alan Narey is still haunted by the unsolved crime. Desperate to relieve her ailing father’s conscience, DS Rachel Narey risks her job and reputation by returning to the Lake of Menteith and unofficially reopening the cold case. With the help of police photographer Tony Winter, Rachel prepares a dangerous gambit to uncover the killer’s identity – little knowing who that truly is. Despite the freezing temperatures the ice cold case begins to thaw, and with it a tide of secrets long frozen in time are suddenly and shockingly unleashed.

After the intensely hard-hitting novel ‘Random’ featuring a serial killer in Glasgow, Craig Robertson is compounding his place in the Scottish fiction crime genre with this second novel (the follow-up to ‘Snapshot) featuring the police scene of crimes photographer Tony Winter. In this novel there is a subtle shift slightly away from Tony to the main police protagonist D.S. Rachel Narey who has her own particular relationship with Tony but is characterised as an exceptionally focused and, for the most part, by the book police officer. However, what Robertson captures brilliantly in this book is the impact of her father’s (himself a former police officer) Alzheimer’s which colours her actions throughout, both as a police officer and a daughter, being emotionally wrought by the deterioration of her father but with a single-minded determination to bring his last unsolved murder case to a conclusion which has always been the chagrin of his life post-police. This unsolved murder case forms the basis of the book, leading Rachel to operate outside her usual moral and professional boundaries to attain justice for the victim and to put to bed this case that has so haunted her father and to what extent this case impacts on her other personal relationships. It’s emotional stuff and despite my usual scepticism of a male author being able to effectively characterise women, Robertson accomplishes this with aplomb. This story is balanced effectively with the Tony and Uncle Danny show as they become involved in a connecting story line involving a community of travellers with a nicely balanced injection of humour amongst the bloodletting and counterbalanced again by Tony’s dark preoccupation with the photographs he takes for his day-job and that pervade his psyche. You certainly get a full quota of human experience in this one!

I will finish by saying that as a reader and a bookseller, the delight about Robertson is the way he slots in so neatly between the more visceral and blackly funny Stuart Mac Bride and the generally safer confines of Rankin’s ‘Rebus’, so what you get is a good solid police procedural underpinned by a more adept feeling for the realm of human relationships and the darker recesses of the human psyche.

(Thanks to Simon and Schuster for the advance reading copy)