Today it’s my great pleasure to be one of the blogs opening up the blog tour for Runaway, the brand new Harcus & Laird mystery from Claire MacLeary. A big thanks to publisher Contraband for the advance copy for review and to Claire MacLeary and Kelly at Love Books Group Tours for inviting me to take part in the tour. Here’s what the book is all about.
The Bookish Bits
‘A brilliant new talent for the lover of crime.’ Sue Black DBE, forensic anthropologist
When Aberdeen housewife Debbie Milne abruptly vanishes without trace, leaving behind her two young children, husband Scott is too distraught to sit out the police’s 72-hour window and await developments. He turns to local detective agency Harcus & Laird.
Put off by previous “domestic” cases, Maggie Laird isn’t keen, but is cajoled by partner Wilma Harcus into a covert operation. Together they comb through meagre scraps of information, eventually trawling the city’s women’s refuges and homeless squats, in spite of the deadly danger.
Then a woman’s body is discovered in a Dundee builder’s skip. With the clock ticking and the police struggling to make identification, the race is on. Claire MacLeary fashions a surprising, gritty, fast-paced tale with the warmth and wisdom of ‘women of a certain age’.
Okay, so this isn’t the first book in the series, but it is the first one I’ve read. However, after hearing the author reading from the previous book, Burnout, at a Noir at the Bar event last year, I didn’t hesitate to say yes to reading this one.
In this book we find our heroes, Maggie and Wilma, at a kind of crossroads in their working relationship. Maggie is keen to wind down the partnership, giving Wilma a deadline by which they need to make their unconventional detective agency work or she will call it a day. Wilma is far too ensconced in the partnership to give up easily and will do anything to make Maggie change her mind. When they are approached by a man asking them to help find his missing wife, Maggie is hesitant but Wilma sees it as their big chance to make their mark, succeeding where the police have failed.
What I loved about the book is that way in which the author has taken two very unlikely characters and made them into believable private investigators. It really shouldn’t work – two women juggling work and family responsibilities and doing a little digging on the side – and yet it strangely does. Not only do you become invested in their business dealings very quickly, but also their personal situation, making me completely committed to the book, even though I’d only just met the characters.
Maggie and Wilma are truly chalk and cheese. Maggie is responsible and perhaps a little reticent, where as Wilma is big and brash and determined. They both have a very keen wit and sense of justice but their personal situations couldn’t be more different. In this book we see Maggie trying hard to find a balance between her many jobs and supporting her children, although to be honest I’d gladly have told her daughter to do one with the attitudes she displayed – Maggie has way more patience than me. Wilma’s biggest concern, on the other hand, is dealing with a stroppy husband when she fails to make it home in time to cook his tea. She knows how to press his buttons though so that particular domestic struggle is quickly defused …
The women are generous and strong willed, and their is banter one of the highlights of the book, and the humour, though dark at times, compliments the heart of the story. We are looking at a missing person case after all, as well as something considerably more sinister. I don’t want to say too much about that but I will say that the theme is very topical and all too real, but handled in a way that is both sympathetic but humorous, without making like of the gravity of what is happening.
As well as Maggie and Wilma, there is a team of Detectives who take a large role in this book too. Primarily it is Maggie who has to deal with them, her connections through her dead husband, a former Police Officer, making her very well known to the local team. Her interference in their cases, particularly that of the missing mother, is not appreciated, and with relations already being strained due to a prior case, it makes for interesting reading. I loved to see the way in which Claire MacLeary had addressed the tensions between Maggie and two key characters – DI Alan Chisolm and DS Brian Burnett. There are romantic attractions galore here, all stilted by prior friendships or professional conflicts. None of it is overplayed, and it feels very authentic. I’d be interested to see where it leads in the future as this little trio can only mean heartache for someone …
Funny, full of tension and drama, and with some real stop you in your tracks moments, this is a book I’d heartily recommend you read. It will make you laugh every bit as much as it will get that brain ticking over, wondering what is going on and if our intrepid heroes can solve the case before it’s too late. Top reading.
About the Author
Claire MacLeary lived in Edinburgh, Aberdeen, and Fife, before returning to her native Glasgow. She describes herself as “a feisty Glaswegian with a full life to draw on”. Following a career in business, she gained an MLitt with Distinction from the University of Dundee and her short stories have been published in various magazines and anthologies.
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