As a founder member of Mystery Women in 1997, promoting Crime Fiction has always been my passion.
Following the closure of Mystery Women, a new group was formed on 30th January 2012 promoting crime fiction.
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John Murray, 4 June 2015. ISBN: 978-1-848546547 (HB)
The first in Louise Welsh’s Plague Times trilogy, A Lovely Way to
Burn, threaded a murder mysterythrough a global pandemic of holocaust proportions. Death Is a
Welcome Guest is the second in the series, and despite being set against
exactly the same background, it couldn’t be more different.
This time Welsh has produced
a thriller with shades of an adult Lord of the Flies: a dark and all too
vivid picture of how survivors will go to any lengths to go on surviving. The
protagonist is Magnus, a small-time stand-up comic who finds himself in prison
for suspected rape when the pandemic strikes. His escape, in the company of
hard-headed Jeb, another ‘vulnerable’ prisoner, takes up the first third of the
book. Violence and horror abound; as before, the city is chaos littered with
Magnus wants to travel north;
his family are in Orkney, and he harbours the hope that the deadly disease may
not have reached the UK’s more remote outposts. So once they’re free of
pursuit, he and Jeb head out into the countryside.
But things are no better
there. There are bodies unburied because no one is left to dig graves, barns
full of dead cows, cats and dogs gone feral, fields where luxuriant crops are
rotting. The few people that remain are suspicious, savage or losing their
minds – in some cases all three. Magnus and Jeb unintentionally find themselves
entangled with a small community, where two people have already died violent
deaths... and from there it’s all downhill.
Welsh is not one to repeat
herself. She sets out to paints an all too frightening and convincing picture
of how the human race would deal with finding itself in extremis. Her
characters are icons, yet individuals; her images of a superficially idyllic
countryside with rot and destruction just under the surface are all too
A Lovely Way to Burn’s protagonist encountered a succession of people in
different situations; in Death Is a Welcome Guest, we stay with the same
small group, exploring the relationships and dynamics which evolve when
disparate people are thrown together in devastating circumstances. The story
has shades of Terry Nation’s 1970s TV drama Survivors, briefly revived a
few years ago, but Welsh’s community is a dark and menacing mirror image of
Nation’s: a world where it’s everyone for him- or herself, leadership is down
to who can shout loudest, and men quickly descend into an eye-for-an-eye
The most frightening
scenarios in fiction are the ones which just could happen. In the wake of the
Ebola crisis, the Plague Times trilogy has even more chilling resonance than
when it was launched.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick
Louise Welsh was born in London on 1February 1965. She studied History at Glasgow University
and traded in second-hand books for several years before publishing her first
novel. She is based in Glasgow, Scotland.
Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen,
and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but
never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher
for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning.
She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with books, about
half of them crime fiction.