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Monday 24 January 2022

‘Old Sins’ by Aline Templeton

Published by Allison & Busby,
18 November 2021.
ISBN: 978-0-7490-2718-6 (HB)

In these days when travel opportunities are limited, there are few greater pleasures than losing oneself in a good book set amid a glorious landscape – especially when the same book is a rattling good mystery peopled by series characters who are starting to feel like old friends.  

Old Sins is the fourth outing for DCI Kelso Strang and his maverick sidekick DC Livvy Murray, linchpins of the Serious Rural Crime Squad whose brief is to head out to whichever beautiful part of Scotland needs high-powered detective support. This time it’s a bit more complicated; there’s a suspicious death close to Inverbeg, a small village in the Highlands, where Kelso is spending a few days with an old army colleague – and when it becomes plain that the colleague is high on the list of suspects, Kelso is forced to recuse himself from the investigation.

By-the-book DI Rachel French is tasked with leading the team, a certain recipe for friction with Livvy Murray, so it’s fortunate that Kelso Strang can find a good reason to remain close by, especially when the problem seems to become knottier with each day that passes. One suspect after another is ruled out, and there’s clearly more going on than meets the eye.

Aficionados of the series, and I freely admit I’m one, will be familiar with the regular characters: Kelso and Livvy, and the redoubtable DCS Jane Borthwick, known as JB. Aline Templeton has a sure hand with the good (and bad) folk of Inverbeg too: irascible Ranald Sinclair and his good-natured wife Hattie; obsessive Sean Reynolds, passionate about wolves and little else, and his coolly efficient wife Maia and feisty but infirm mother Shirley; a varied assortment of villagers and estate employees, including elderly and perceptive crofter Angus Mackenzie. 

I once heard a good crime novel described as a beginning, a muddle and an end. That’s certainly the case here, but with Aline Templeton’s sure hand on the tiller the path through the muddle is a navigable one. For devotees of the puzzle at the heart of the novel there are clues to pick up and piece together before the penny drops for Kelso, Rachel and Livvy. If, like me, it’s the richness of the character-led drama you’re after, there’s ample to satisfy the most demanding reader.

This is a series that gets better and better. I look forward to Kelso Strang’s next case with eager anticipation.

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.  Her most recent series features DCI Kelso Strang, officer in charge of Police Scotland’s Serious Rural Crime Squad. Old Sins is the fourth 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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