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Friday 26 June 2020

‘Devil’s Garden’ by Aline Templeton

Published by Allison & Busby,
18 June 2020.
ISBN: 978-0-7490-2601-1 (HB)

Anna Harper is the kind of novelist all aspiring writers want to be. Her books are not only bestsellers; they are acclaimed as the kind of books that change people’s lives. But Anna has a secret past which she keeps firmly under wraps – guarding it with her life if necessary.

But it’s not her own life that’s at stake, at least not at first. Her recovering addict son Felix has just died after a relapse that resulted in an overdose; then her capable, well-adjusted daughter Cassie is knocked off her bike by a hit-and-run motorist and left for dead at the roadside. She survives, and isn’t even badly hurt, but Anna is scared.

The local police carry out a cursory investigation but decide both incidents are accidental. Anna and her fierce constant companion Marta Morelli aren’t satisfied. Enter DCI Kelso Strang, officer in charge of Police Scotland’s Serious Rural Crime Squad. At first Kelso isn’t even investigating these so-called accidents; he has been alerted to possible corruption in the local force linked to county lines drug dealing and is there to check it out. But then Anna’s daughter goes missing.

This is the third outing for Aline Templeton’s new detective, and the series gets better each time. The recurring cast remains the same: Kelso himself, a highly competent copper slowly emerging from devastating grief for his dead wife; DC Livvy Murray, clever and perceptive but inexperienced, a little inclined to go off at a tangent, and desperate for Kelso’s approval; DCS Jane Borthwick, his sympathetic, down-to-earth boss; and recent arrivals Finella and Betsy, his sister and her feisty three-year-old who haven’t yet moved out after coming to stay for a few weeks.

As in the previous two in the series, there’s plenty of local colour in the form of characters like bad boy Jason Jackson, wannabe journo Sascha Silverton, ambitious DI Steve Hammond and fusspot administrator Gil Paton, as well as Anna Harper’s household. And we mustn’t forget the glorious, rugged, Scottish landscape which is such a feature of Aline Templeton’s books; this time it’s the Borders, with narrow roads and steep hillsides which become treacherous when the weather closes in.

What starts out for Kelso as a low-key investigation into drugs and corruption rapidly develops into something much bigger – and there’s plenty to keep the reader on the edge of his or her seat, right up to the final pages. Aline Templeton knows how to weave a many-stranded plot and balance a large cast of characters all with their own agenda. You’ll want to keep reading, to discover exactly what goes on under the surface of peaceful small-town Scotland; I certainly did.
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.  Her most recent series features DCI Kelso Strang, officer in charge of Police Scotland’s Serious Rural Crime Squad. Devil’s Garden is the third book in the series.  

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 in Oxfordshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction. 

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