‘The Darkest Goodbye’by Alex Gray (@Alexincrimeland) – An ‘Angel of Mercy’ brings the case close to home for Lorimer

June Maitland is terminally ill with cancer, living out her final days in her home and receiving nursing care and support. Early in the morning, she receives a visit from a new Nurse, one with more than just pain relief on their mind.

Across the city, a drug dealer is murdered, a reminder to all who may forget, that it does not pay to talk out of turn.

Two deaths. One murder, one seemingly natural causes, both assigned to fledgling DC Kirsty Wilson and her new mentor, DS Len Murdoch.

In an action packed first day for the new DC they are also assigned to act upon a robbery in a jewellery store, a moment during which leads Kirsty to have to question her judgement and the responsibilities of her position as the newest kid on the block, as she tries to live up to the reputation of her soon to retire father, Alistair Wilson, and the expectations of long-time family friend, her boss, Detective Superintendent, William Lorimer.

As Murdoch and Wilson arrive at old Ms Maitland’s home, her assigned carer is adamant that there is something amiss, partly due to the insistence of her upstairs neighbour that she had seen a strange man leaving the home in the early hours, someone who was not meant to be there. Further tests reveal that there is more to this than a simple death by natural causes, and with Murdoch away dealing with his own wife’s terminal illness, it is left to Lorimer and Wilson to investigate this as a suspicious death. Whilst he relishes the opportunity to work alongside the new DC and see her flourish, the investigation brings Lorimer disturbingly close to home.

Meanwhile, former nurse Sarah Wilding is released from prison, heading back to Glasgow to try and make a new life after one wrong decision took away everything she held dear. She is given an opportunity for redemption being given a temporary job in a care home. However, there are people out there who see her as a means to furthering another, far more sinister agenda.

As the ‘Angel of Mercy’ works their way across the city, leaving behind them a trail of bodies of which June Maitland is merely the start, the question on everyone’s lips is simple. Are terminally ill patients arranging for their own suffering to be brought to an end, or worse still, is that decision being taken from them?

As the story begins, it is hard to see how all of these seemingly separate crimes fit together, and also where Sarah fits into the story, but this is the beauty of this book. Each element weaves together like a fine tapestry, with perhaps only the robbery a little red herring, although, in fairness, it does feed a little of the background of Murdoch’s character and drives Wilson question his motivations when allegations are made against the officer later in the book. As the story reaches its conclusion, every question you may have is answered and none of the links between crimes seems tenuous or forced. And the ending? Well, all loose ends are tied up. Sort of…

The prose flows well, descriptions of settings are solid and although the subject matter can be very emotive for many, it is sensitively handled. The idea of ending someone’s suffering is not politicised or glorified in any way, the author leaving the reader to make up their own mind on the subject. Even the characters are divided in their opinion of what is right. It is a difficult question to answer after all, with possibly in truth, no right or wrong answer. What would you do if you had to watch a loved one die or you were the one to suffer the debilitating illness? Would you rather live as long as possible and savour every last moment you had, or end the suffering as swiftly and painlessly as possible? And what is the ultimate motivator behind such decisions? Love, selfishness or greed?

I have not read any other books in this series and so it is difficult to comment on the characterisations as many other readers will be more aware of the characters and their history. I don’t feel that this has put me at a disadvantage though, as it was easy to follow the relationships between the characters in the story. The pace was good and held my attention well, if only to find out how it would pull together in the end. I read through this in a day and would recommend it to anyone who is a fan of the series or who likes a good solid crime novel. I will be certainly perusing back through the series to find out what I have missed so far.

5 stars