Today it is my pleasure to be taking part in the bog tour for Shores of Death the latest Grace Macallan novel from Peter Ritchie (previously published as Red Sky in Morning). My thanks to the publishers for inviting me to join the tour and providing an advance copy for review. I’ll be sharing my thoughts on the book in just am moment, as soon as we’ve seen what it is all about.
About the Book
Grace Macallan is at breaking point. All around her, events threaten to run out of control – and a new investigation is testing her to the limit.
An undercover officer is missing and a woman is washed up, traumatised and barely alive, on the shores of Berwickshire. She has witnessed horror on the dark waters of the North Sea, but survival turns her life from a bad dream into a nightmare.
As she untangles the woman’s story, Grace is drawn into a cold-blooded criminal world. At its head is Pete Handyside, a notorious gangland boss who will fight hard and dirty to control his brutal empire and keep the money flowing.
But a traitor in his midst is intent upon betrayal – a betrayal that triggers an uncontrollable wave of violence. As she hones in on crucial evidence, Grace knows that one wrong move could end in tragedy.
When we join this book Grace Macallan is at a crossroads in her life. Now a happily settled family woman, her relationship with her partner Jack is going from strength to strength and their new son Adam has opened up her heart in a way she had not known possible. But with her maternity leave due to end soon she has to make a decision – does she return to the job she once loved, or are the memories of all she went through just too much to handle now? To help her make a decision she agrees to take on one, potentially final, definitely harrowing case – that of a young woman found washed up on a beach, barely alive but most certainly with a story to tell, a story we, as readers, are already privy to.
Now after the break neck pace of Evidence of Death, and the constant feeling of threat and menace from the gang that Grace was trying to track down, I have to be honest and say that Shores of Death did feel a slower read to me and certainly didn’t feel quite as, I don’t know – gory(?) – as its predecessor. That is not to say that the violence wasn’t there – it most certainly was – but it seemed far less gratuitous than before. There are certainly plenty of killings going on, especially amongst the gangs Grace and her team are trying to track down, and the action moves along at a fair pace for the story, perhaps reflecting the nature of the case and the lack of evidence that they have to work with, in spite of great suspicions along the way. They are hampered by fear, corruption and a lack of credible, or living, witnesses as the number of victims increases, so does the frustration.
What this book lacks in pace it makes up for in plotting and character. This is certainly an intricate tale, action moving from Edinburgh to Eyemouth to Newcastle and even further up into Scotland as Grace tries to catch her man, or men or even lady in this case (I use lady in the loosest sense of the word …) As its core, this is a story of gang culture and the firms that run parts of Glasgow and Edinburgh may not be quite as in control as they would like to believe. The real power – the fear – derives from Newcastle and a gangster called Pete Handyside, a man with skewed morals and sense of justice, albeit that he does stand true to them, limited compassion for anyone aside from his wife and child and absolutely no hesitation to kill, although only if deserved.
Handyside is quite the formidable opponent for Grace and she has her work cut out for her in pinning him down. He is behind the trafficking of young girls from Europe and also behind a rather disturbing order which kicks off the action in the book, starting an unstoppable chain of events that left me wondering whether these gangs weren’t just going to do Grace’s job for her.
Grace is a brilliant protagonist and in this book we see an even more human side, her mind adrift with thoughts of her new family and all she is missing by being tied to the job. Much like Handyside, her sense of justice drives her on, although in a much more virtuous vein of course. She is intelligent, strong, determined and patient and has the full respect of her team. She has been through a lot but even when things are working against her she pushes onward. This case really gets under her skin, a it does her colleagues, and it is easy to understand why. Certainly the story of Ingrid Richter, the woman washed up on the beach, is very sensitively handled and you can truly feel her despair and her guilt as she slowly gives into a kind of depression.
Once again Grace is ably supported by McGovern who has his own life changing decisions to make but you’ll have to read to find out what. And rather than working against her, O’Connor is finally in her corner, realising the error of his ways courtesy of a mutual friend.
In contrast to our heroes, the villains in this book are a true mixed bag. From the inexperienced and out of their depth Flemings who took over the business after their father and brother’s gruesome demise to the more over the top and certainly much harder McMartin’s from Glasgow, they run the full gamut of brains and thuggery but none of them are a match for the chilling and merciless Handyside. He really is a villain of the most cruel nature. Intelligence and brutality in one neat package and not one you should underestimate for one moment.
All in all this was a great addition to the series, a lot more contemplation going on from a team of people who had big decisions to make about their futures, and not just Grace and McGovern. I think nearly every character reached a turning point in their careers and personal lives which is reflected in the narrative in a very convincing way. Great stuff.
If you would like your own copy of Shores of Death for yourself then you can find it at the following retailers:
About the Author
Peter followed his forefathers and started his working life at 15 as a deep sea fisherman.
He eventually joined the police service moving through the ranks of CID/Murder Squad/Regional Crime Squad in Scotland. He then went on to manage the Organised Crime Unit in the National Criminal Intelligence Service in London where he ran a multi agency team drawn from various branches of the law enforcement and the security services. This was a unique concept at the time and Peter travelled to many parts of the world in this role. He was subsequently appointed as the UK Liaison Officer to Europol in The Hague where he spent five years.
He returned to Lothian and Borders heading the Major Crime Team before taking on an advisory role for a project in Croatia. Following his retiral he worked on a number of private investigations before spending the next few years as part of the public inquiry team looking into the murder of the LVF leader Billy Wright in the Maze Prison.
Follow Peter on Twitter.
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