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Wednesday, 18 June 2014

‘The Bird That Did Not Sing’ by Alex Gray

Published by Sphere,
13 March 2014. 
ISBN: 978-1-84744-567-4

An explosion in the countryside near Glasgow draws Detective Superintendent William Lorimer into contact with MI6 over a threat to the Commonwealth Games, due to take place in 2014.  But he has other worries: the behaviour of his beautiful, red-haired teenage-sweetheart whose husband has died on his watch, and the death of a young black woman marked with a strange Celtic tattoo ...

This novel opens with a lyrical description of the Scottish countryside in spring, and, in keeping with the book’s title, Gray plays with the idea of birds throughout.  DS Lorimer and his wife Maggie have worked their way through difficulties to being people you enjoy spending time with: a restful older couple, each dedicated to work – I enjoyed the glimpes of Maggie’s classroom world.  Because his involvement with the case of the dead husband means Lorimer can’t be in charge, you see more of his emotional side, as well as the reactions of Maggie, to the cuckoo in their nest.  The fear and bewilderment of Asa, the African girl kidnapped from her village, draws you into her story too, and you’re kept wondering how she’s going to mesh into the plot overall.  Among the police, we follow both DI Wilson and his new recruit daughter Kirsty investigating the murders, while Lorimer himself focuses on the terrorist threat.  The plot moves quickly between strands, the Glasgow setting is a real presence in the book, and the euphoria and pride in the crucial Commonwealth Games plausibly evoked – it must have felt strange writing a book set just in the future in this way!  However the expected influx of visitors links the city to the wider world in an unexpected and sinister way ... Although this is well through the Lorimer series, it reads as a stand-alone, and wouldn’t spoil earlier books, so the reader can enjoy it, then go back.

A keep-you-reading police procedural with strong emotional involvement in the characters.  Highly recommended.
Reviewer: Marsali Taylor

Alex Gray born 27 May 1950, Glasgow, is a Scottish crime writer. She was brought up in the Craigbank area of Glasgow and attended Hutchesons' Grammar School. She studied English and Philosophy at Strathclyde University and worked for a period in the  Department of Heaklth & Social Security before training as an English teacher. In 1976 she lived in Rhodesia for three months, during which time she got married, and she and her husband returned to Scotland. She continued teaching until the 1990s, when she gave the profession up and began to write full-time. Alex is a member of the Femmes Fatales crime writing trio, together with Alanna Knight and Lin Anderson .She has published six novels, all set around Glasgow and featuring the character of Detective Chief Inspector Lorimer and his psychological profiler Solomon Brightman, the earlier novels being published by Canongate and later books by Little Brown. She has also written several magazine articles.

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.

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