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Friday 28 December 2018

‘Carrion Comfort’ by Aline Templeton

Published by Allison & Busby,
13 December 2018.
ISBN: 978-0-7490-2415-4 (HB)

Rural Scotland may be sparsely populated, but it seems its villages are a hotbed of hatred, rivalry and all manner of nefarious doings. Forsich, on the edge of a boggy, inhospitable region known as the Flow Country, is no exception; rancour going back years is aimed at Patrick Curran, whose failed business damaged a lot of people. Curran is dead, but his daughter Gabrielle has inherited both his new business and the resentment of the community – and now a body has been found mutilated by ravens, in a ruined croft house on a remote farmstead. At first it appears to be a rough sleeper who died of natural causes, but it soon emerges that he drowned, and not by accident, and that he was well known in the community.

Enter Kelso Strang, the head of Police Scotland's Serious Rural Crimes Initiative, despatched to unravel the mystery. He soon learns that Niall Aitchison, the dead man, also came in for his share of the bad feeling surrounding the Currans.

As a fine tangle of connections and relationships emerges, Kelso Strang has to put his personal issues aside and plot a careful route between the various factions, and also around the senior detective of the local police force, who is none too happy to have Strang parachuted into a potentially high-profile case despite his own obvious incompetence. Strang's life is made harder still when the only available support from his home turf takes the form of a self-satisfied detective sergeant more interested in filling his stomach than solving crimes, and Constable Livvy Murray, now a DC, who caused him considerable hassle on his previous murder investigation.

Once again Aline Templeton has created a cast of characters who could step off the page into real life; I warmed to Gabrielle and despised her sister Francesca, loathed company CEO Bruce Michie on sight and felt unexpectedly sorry for unappealing cafe owner Morven Gunn; and I couldn't help but adore Strang's small but forceful niece Betsy on sight. I felt I could touch, smell and almost taste the bogland around the village, and found it easy to visualize the various different houses where the action unfolded. There's an obvious culprit, but in crime fiction it's never wise to let the obvious blind you to the undercurrents; misdirection is another of Templeton's many skills.

I think I fell a little in love with DCI Kelso Strang during the first of the series, and Carrion Comfort only served to make me want to see a whole lot more of him.
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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