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Friday 14 February 2020

‘Dead Catch’ by T F Muir

Published by Constable,
6 February 2020.
ISBN: 978-1-47212-879-9 (PB)

Everywhere has its dark side, and if T F Muir is to be believed, Scotland's bleakly beautiful east coast, especially around St Andrews, is darker than most. The latest in his DCI Andy Gilchrist series opens with the discovery of an appallingly mutilated body in a wrecked fishing boat. And then it gets darker.

The not-for-the-faint-stomached series has grown more and more complex over its previous eight episodes, and the ninth sets about ramping things up even further. While Gilchrist is clambering over treacherous terrain to view the body, his sergeant, mouthy Glaswegian Jessie Janes, is off piste, trying to do right by her wanted criminal brother, while also doing her duty as a policewoman. His boss, Chief Superintendent Diane Smiley, also has conflicting loyalties. And Gilchrist himself has complications on the home front; his grown-up son and daughter are both making unusually high demands on his time and attention.

A turning point seems to come when Gilchrist is ordered to hand over his investigation of the fishing boat murder to another force; with no idea who he can trust, he sets out to find a way round the chief constable's uncompromising instructions. And that's when it starts to get really complicated...

The regular characters in the series – Gilchrist, his artist son Jack and daughter Maureen, Jessie, DC Mhairi McBride – all seem to develop extra facets in each book. Others take a back seat here – pathologist Becky Cooper, Gilchrist's old flame; disabled researcher Jackie; Jessie's deaf son Robert – but still hover in the background. And the bad guys are as bad as they come.

An unexpected star of the show here is the weather. It's been said that Britain doesn't have a climate, it just has weather; if that's so, it all emanates from St Andrews, where driving rain, a force ten gale, blizzard conditions and glorious sunshine can all occur on the same day. Gilchrist drives to rendezvous through a downpour, examines evidence on a beautiful spring day, almost comes a cropper on slippery terrain. It all forms a backdrop for a plot with more layers and twists than a plate of sausage rolls, and Gilchrist and Jessie find themselves in their worst trouble yet.

It leaves Gilchrist wondering if it's all worth it, and if maybe it's time to retire. But something makes me think he'll be back to fight the bad guys again. I hope so; it would be a pity to lose one of the best – and darkest – of the tartan noir detectives.
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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