Detective Inspector Tony McLean is back, and it is a most welcomed return.
Now working with the Sexual Crimes Unit, McLean has been joined by DS Ritchie, both having put behind them the harrowing events which occured in Prayer for the Dead. After a brief introduction to two very mysterious characters, the action opens with the SCU about to conduct a raid upon a suspected brothel. Needless to say, as this is a McLean story, nothing is quite as straight forward as it is meant to be and what should be big coup for the team turns quickly into a big embarrassment. They are able to salvage something from the raid, albeit something minor, but as always McLean’s sixth sense is sent into overdrive, and when he meets a young woman who he is certain he knows from somewhere, you know that this is yet another job which is not going to end well.
With pressure on from the top brass to investigate how the raid went so wrong with as little fuss as possible, McLean is left wondering just why everyone is so keen to let it drop. To add to the confusion, McLean finds himself having to deal with the case of a Salesman who has died in somewhat awkward and unusual circumstances, circumstances which lead him back full circle to that fateful raid and an increasing pressure to close the case pronto.
Never one to like being told to walk away, you know that this will not happen now, and McLean’s natural curiosity is set to get him into trouble. As a result of his continued investigation into the case, he finds himself transferred to the Cold Case Squad, alongside former Chief Super Duguid and Grumpy Bob Laird. This is a move the Senior Officers may soon regret, as Duguid has his own agenda and personal reasons for wanting to run a particular cold case, one which leads McLean, Grumpy Bob and co back to an old investigation that occured when McLean was just a fresh faced beat copper and Duguid a mere DS, a case with more than just an echo of the recent raid.
The pace of the book felt a touch more pedestrian after the intensity of some of the previous books, and based around sex crimes, cold cases and death by natural causes rather than outright gruesome ritual murder, you might probably expect it. Don’t let this fool you. It still moves along at a good pace, is as engrossing as all of the rest, and I found that I got through the whole thing in just a day. Despite Duguid having ‘retired’, there is the usual cast of antagonists, like Brooks and Spencer, making McLean’s day to day working life just that fraction more irritating than it needs to be, as well as an uneasy and unexpected alliance with the incessant, boys club hating, and now conspiracy obsessed journalist Jo Dalgliesh. With the return of best friend Phil and his heavily pregnant wife Rachel, along with her sister Jenny, McLean’s social life is suddenly full once more, much to the disgust of Mrs McCutcheon’s Cat. By the end of the book it also looks set to be a whole lot more complicated.
The writing is as sharp as ever, the characters well observed, and while it may be obvious to the reader early on how McLean knows the mysterious Heather Marchmont, with the distractions in his work and home life, it is no wonder it takes him a while to cotton on. The undercurrent of the supernatural/ritualistic element which has characterised this series is a lot more understated in this book, but still there, along with the promise of more to come as the reasons for or the ultimate source of the attempted whitewash are never fully explained and the mysterious duo from the start of the novel are still at large, giving us the impression that there is still more to be uncovered about this particular tale. We know from past history that McLean doesn’t like to let things like that rest.
And so, as an avid reader of this series, I am left with only one question.
When’s the next one out? 😉