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Thursday 1 January 2015

‘The Meating Room’ by T F Muir

Published by Constable in paperback,
18 September 2014.
ISBN: 978-1-47211-554-6

Just a few pages into The Meating Room, T F Muir’s fifth DCI Andy Gilchrist novel, I found myself wondering just how much more gruesome and dangerous life could get in the apparently quiet seaside town of St Andrews.

Those of a sensitive disposition may need to look away when he describes the scene of the particularly gory and unpleasant multiple murder which kicks off the investigation for Gilchrist and his none too merry crew; Gilchrist himself finds it hard to hold on to his breakfast.

The plot isn’t so much whodunit as we know who’s guilty but how the heck do they prove it?  An ongoing rape and sexual abuse investigation impacts in a big way on a multiple murder, and a fatal hit-and-run incident points the finger incontrovertibly in Gilchrist’s opinion – but top-flight lawyers and apparently cast-iron alibis present huge hurdles. And, this being T F Muir, it’s all a lot more grisly and appalling than it appears at first. The final reveal, when Gilchrist and his team finally put the pieces together, made me glad I was reading in broad daylight with other people close by; it’s one of the most chilling and horrific outcomes I’ve ever encountered in a crime novel.

Fortunately for those of us with less than cast-iron stomachs, there’s plenty to get your teeth into aside from the gore. So if detailed descriptions of butchery aren’t your bag, and to be honest they’re not really mine, you can always gloss over those bits and focus elsewhere. The bad guys are a tad Central Casting hard men, but the regular characters have stories of their own, and are far more than ciphers carrying the plot. Andy Gilchrist is a nicely rounded mix of maverick decisiveness at work and insecurity in his knotty private life. He’s not above bending the law to ensure justice prevails, and his team are loyal to the end.

The supporting characters have personal lives almost as complex as the storyline. Jessie Janes, Gilchrist’s sergeant, has an uninhibited mouth which doesn’t quite conceal her vulnerable side, and a past which threatens the present; pathologist Rebecca Cooper is a lot more than a bit on the side with a pretty face.

There’s plenty of atmosphere too; Muir’s St Andrews certainly isn’t a pretty, peaceful tourist resort. It’s a chilly March, winter’s last hurrah, complete with plenty of haar (sea mist) and razor-like cold, with a bit of late snow for good measure; and every one of the five senses is swiftly put on high alert.

Tartan noir is already a significant force within the crime fiction world, and T F Muir is rapidly earning a place up there with the best.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

T F Muir Born in Glasgow, Scotland, Frank was plagued from a young age with the urge to see more of the world than the rain sodden slopes of the Campsie Fells.  By the time he graduated from University with a degree he hated, he’d already had more jobs than the River Clyde has bends.  Short stints as a lumberjack in the Scottish Highlands and a moulder’s labourer in the local foundry convinced Frank that his degree was not such a bad idea after all.  Thirty-plus years of living and working overseas helped him appreciate the raw beauty of his home country.  Now a dual US/UK citizen, Frank makes his home in the outskirts of Glasgow, from where he visits St Andrews regularly to carry out some serious research in the old grey town’s many pubs and restaurants.  Frank is working hard on his next novel, another crime story suffused with dark alleyways and cobbled streets and some things gruesome.

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.

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