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Thursday, 19 January 2017

‘None but the Dead’ by Lin Anderson

Published by Macmillan,
25 August 2016.

Orkney, on the northern island of Sanday. There’s a murder in the past – then, in the present, reclusive incomer Mike Jones finds a muslin flower in his loft – representing the soul of a dead child, the island’s historian, Sam Flett, tells him, adding ‘Put it back!’ But Mike feels strangely drawn by the flower ...then a skeleton’s found in Mike’s yard... but how could it be connected to a dead pensioner in Glasgow? If the islanders know, they’re not telling – but Rona MacLeod and her sidekicks Chrissie and McNab are determined to find out.

This novel brings forensic scientist Rhona Macleod to the most remote island of the Orkney archipelago, where the wind plays havoc with transport links, the only mobile phone signal is outside and behind the house, and there’s no point in putting up a tent, because it would be straight in the Atlantic. Anderson has captured the feel of somewhere very different, where everyone is related, and everyone knows everything about everyone else; where bones turning up in the soil are part of the Neolithic or Norse heritage; where islanders police themselves, and resent incomer law officers coming in; where the past is still important enough to kill for. We’re also given a flavour of wartime Orkney – far from being a safe haven then, the islands were in the front line, with thousands of soldiers, sailors, airmen and prisoners of war billeted there. Rhona MacLeod is a determined, resourceful heroine, even with her lab for test results several days away, and her profession adds an interesting and convincing dimension to her detective work – her use of soil, for example, to trace where people have been. Glaswegian McNab, a natural city-dweller, has no CCTV to help him find out what people were up to, just a lot of chatty islanders whose dialect is too strong for him to follow, and a determination that nobody’s going to attempt to murder him and get away with it. The different strands of the story – the murder in the past, the Glasgow death, and a child’s disappearance – are all woven together smoothly, and the supernatural atmosphere of the muslin flowers is creepily done. This novel is the eleventh in the Rhona MacLeod series, and so there are a number of references to previous books, usually in the characters’ relationships with each other, rather than in plot spoilers. If you wanted to begin at the start, the first story in the series is a prequel novella, Blood Red Roses, and the first novel is Driftnet.

A fast-moving, atmospheric PP with an extra dimension added to the investigation by the forensic scientist heroine, and set in an unusual and vividly-evoked place. A treat for Rhona MacLeod’s many fans, and highly recommended to those who haven’t met her yet.
Reviewer: Marsali Taylor

Lin Anderson was born in Greenock. She attended the University of Glasgow and Edinburgh. Lin is a Tartan Noir crime novelist and screenwriter. Whilst best known as the creator of forensic scientist Rhona MacLeod, Lin  has a second mystery thriller series featuring private investigator  Patrick de Courvoisier, set in glamorous Cannes (think  The Rockford Files meets James Bond). As of 2010 the Rhona MacLeod books are being developed for ITV. 

Marsali Taylor grew up near Edinburgh, and came to Shetland as a newly-qualified teacher. She is currently a part-time teacher on Shetland's scenic west side, living with her husband and two Shetland ponies. Marsali is a qualified STGA tourist-guide who is fascinated by history, and has published plays in Shetland's distinctive dialect, as well as a history of women's suffrage in Shetland. She's also a keen sailor who enjoys exploring in her own 8m yacht, and an active member of her local drama group.  Marsali also does a regular monthly column for the Mystery People e-zine.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

‘Method 15/33’ by Shannon Kirk

Published by Sphere,
14 July 2016.
ISBN 978-0-7515-6431-0

This debut novel is one that I believe will have mass appeal. It is a psychological thriller with a difference in that a kidnap situation is turned on its head with the kidnapper becoming the victim.

Lisa Yyland is a heavily pregnant sixteen year old who is snatched from her home in Barnstead, New Hampshire. She is held in one room of a large isolated house and it soon becomes clear that her kidnapper and his associates intend to take her baby and kill her.

Told retrospectively from seventeen years ahead, we know that somehow Lisa escaped but until the climatic conclusion there are no clues as to what her situation has become or why she is retelling her story now.

The book starts with Lisa four days into her captivity. From a wealthy family, she is something of a child genius and has her own laboratory in the basement at home where she conducts experiments. Lisa applies her meticulous scientific processes to her current situation and tells the back story while she analyses and understands her predicament. From the start the reader is aware that the kidnappers have made a huge mistake snatching Lisa and very soon they are going to suffer in the worst possible way.

Born with the extraordinary ability to switch her emotions on and off, Lisa can focus on tasks without the influence of emotions getting in the way, although with the hormones of pregnancy she doesn't always manage to achieve it. As with many scientists, Lisa is not a social person so the isolation of confinement does not have the crippling impact it would have on other victims.

She spends her days thinking lovingly of her unborn child and rehearsing escape scenarios. She makes mental notes of behaviour patterns and timings, and turns everything around her into an inventory asset that can be used as a weapon for her escape and revenge if she can just figure out how. Throughout the story there is an ever-present awareness that time is rapidly running out and with it Lisa's options and this creates a real page-turning sense of urgency.

Told from the viewpoints of the Lisa and also FBI Special Agent Roger Lui who is trying to find a missing girl, the story explores the hideous nature of crimes against children with the life-long affects both to the victims and their families and on someone meting revenge. An excellent and totally engaging read.


Reviewer Christine Hammacott

Shannon Kirk is a practicing attorney and a law professor. She attended West Virginia Wesleyan and St. John's Universities, is a graduate of Suffolk Law School, and was a trial lawyer in Chicago prior to moving to Massachusetts. She has been honoured three times by the Faulkner Society in the William Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband, a physicist, and their son. Method 15/33 was Kirk's debut novel. Foreign rights have now been sold in 20 countries.

Christine Hammacott lives near Southampton and runs her own design consultancy. She started her career working in publishing as a book designer and now creates covers for indie-authors. She writes page-turning fiction that deals with the psychological effects of crime. Her debut novel The Taste of Ash was published in 2015.