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Wednesday, 22 July 2015

‘The Third Sin’ by Aline Templeton

Published by Allison & Busby,
23 April 2015.
ISBN: 978-0-7490-1638-8 (HB)

On the surface of it, a grandmother who hails from a small fishing village seems an unlikely candidate for membership of the growing band of authors who march under the Tartan Noir banner, but Aline Templeton has many of the qualifications. Her novels are set in picturesque but perilous Galloway with the treacherous and unpredictable Solway Firth in the background. In The Third Sin, the ninth in her DI Marjory Fleming series, there’s a body in the first chapter, and the count keeps on rising. Drugs and arson are involved, with a hint of financial fraud lurking in the background. And the investigating detective has difficult senior officers to deal with. 

Perhaps this series isn’t quite as dark and gritty as, say, Stuart McBride or T F Muir, but it has its moments in the murk. It also has a vibrant cast of characters on both sides of the law, with a complex web of relationships which is equally well developed. By the end, my first taste of an unfamiliar author had transmuted into the kind of book which drew me in and left me feeling I really knew these people and this wildly beautiful place.

The plot is as twisty as the clifftop lanes they travel in the wind and rain. It focuses on a reunion party to be held two years after the death by overdose of a member of a group of young bloods known as the Cyrenaics, who dedicated themselves to the principle of pleasure above all else. The group disintegrated after the death of their friend, and is about to be brought back together by the mother of one of their number. And then the former Cyrenaics start dying in suspicious circumstances...

The result is a classic police procedural, excellently executed, with close attention to the details of the investigation. The glorious western Scotland landscape is vividly portrayed too. But the novel’s greatest strength lies in the characters. On the side of the angels there’s Louise and Andy, the warring junior detectives; taciturn Ewan, whose love of paperwork unearths vital clues; experienced and perceptive Tam; and Marjory Fleming herself, intuitive, determined, not averse to getting her hands dirty, and thoroughly grounded by her stable, nurturing home life. On the shady side, feckless Randall, vulnerable Skye, flighty Kendra and brittle Philippa take centre stage. All are well-drawn, with that scratch-me-and-I-bleed quality: an essential aspect of a successful series and a key one of this.

It’s taken me a while to discover Aline Templeton, and I’m glad The Third Sin finally gave me the opportunity to do so. Hers is a backlist I’ll take great pleasure in exploring.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick
Aline Templeton grew up in  the fishing village of Anstruther, on the east coast of Scotland not far from St Andrews.  The memories of beautiful scenery and a close community inspired her to set the Marjory Fleming series in a place very like that – rural Galloway, in the south-west of Scotland. After  attending  Cambridge University  to read English she taught for a few years.  She now writes full-time and lives in Edinburgh in a house with a balcony built by an astronomer to observe the stars, with a splendid view of the castle and the beautiful city skyline. 

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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