I loved Thunder Island, the first book in the Rebecca Connolly series, when I read it last year, so did Mandie, so it caused no small amount of jealousy when I received a copy of the second book, The Blood Is Still, through the post. I’m delighted to finally share my thoughts on the book and to let you know what it’s all about, and big thank you to publisher Polygon for entrusting me with a copy.
About the Book
When the body of a man in eighteenth-century Highland dress is discovered on the site of the Battle of Culloden, journalist Rebecca Connolly takes up the story for the Chronicle.Available from: Amazon | Kobo | Waterstones | Googleplay | Apple Books | Hive
Meanwhile, a film being made about the ’45 Rebellion has enraged the right-wing group Spirit of the Gael which is connected to a shadowy group called Black Dawn linked to death threats and fake anthrax deliveries to Downing Street and Holyrood. When a second body – this time in the Redcoat uniform of the government army – is found in Inverness,Rebecca finds herself drawn ever deeper into the mystery. Are the murders connected to politics, a local gang war or something else entirely?
What i really loved about Thunder Island, was the way in which Douglas Skelton captured that sense of isolation and the atmospheric conditions of of the setting, as well as creating a story drew you in from the very start. Although the setting has very much changed this time around, moving from the Island of Stoirm to a more urban landscape of Inverness, well as urban as Inverness gets, there is no doubting the intrigue of the story which captures you immediately , leaving you with a whole host of questions that can only be answered by following the story to its very dramatic conclusion.
Like, Thunder Island, The Blood Is Still is a story that very much has its roots in the past, and not just because the first victim is found clothed in the garb of an eighteenth century soldier and left on the Culloden Battlefield. There are moments in the book that see us switch from the present day in which our protagonist, journalist Rebecca Connolly, tries to get to the heart of the murder, story, to passages which are very clearly memories of a young child who has had a very traumatic past. These scenes are hard to read, but handled with absolute care, keeping the really dark moments away from the page but lacing them with enough tragedy and emotion to make my heart break and my blood boil. It is clear that these passage link into the present day somehow, but they why, and the who, remain cleverly hidden.
This is not just a story about a murder though, and Rebecca’s investigation also centre on a growing tension within a local community who are fighting against proposals to rehome a sex offender on their streets. The way in which Douglas Skelton captures the passion and the anger of the residents is pitch perfect, and you can feel the temperatures rising and the anger flare as you read on. One of the main instigators of these protests, Mo Burke, has her own reasons for wanting this stopped, but is hardly the most trustworthy of characters herself. Between her and her two sons, Noland and Scott, they make for a fearsome family and yet still they perhaps lack the truly abhorrent qualities of ultra-right wing politician, Finbar Dalgleish, a man who sees to represent all the worst traits of humanity and whose followers demonstrate the worst levels of violence, prejudice and intolerance. Between them all, they bring a real tension to the read, creating scenes which had me on edge and during which I could feel my pulse racing.
Rebecca is a character I find fascinating and the more I learn about her, the more I enjoy reading these stories. She is tenacious, driven largely by gut instinct. She is very career centric, harking back to the days of old style journalism and, this time, set to be thwarted by the company she works for wanting to adopt a far more forward thinking and twenty-first century productivity driven approach to the job. Naturally this causes a conflict that is fun to watch and acts as a kind of catalyst for all that is to come. But as forward and intrepid as Rebecca is career wise, she is the opposite emotionally, and her reticence to engage in relationships is explored further in the book. It all builds to create a better understanding of her as a person, of what drives her and what holds her back and she is a character I like more and more with each book.
This is a multi-faceted story, one that took me by surprise if I am honest. Towards the end of the book, after a scene full of jeopardy and intensity, there is one particularly tender, and unexpected, moment that actually made me quite emotional. There is a touch of the old romantic in that Mr Skelton I think, and the poignancy of those final scenes was delivered to perfection. Once again this is a book that delivered everything – great characters, mystery, tension, atmosphere and a myriad of emotions and I loved it.
About the Author
Douglas Skelton was born in Glasgow. He has been a bank clerk, tax officer, taxi driver (for two days), wine waiter (for two hours), journalist and investigator. He has written eleven true crime and Scottish criminal history books but now concentrates on fiction. His novel Open Wounds (2016) was longlisted for the McIlvanney Award. Douglas has investigated real-life crime for Glasgow solicitors and was involved in a long-running campaign to right the famous Ice-Cream Wars miscarriage of justice.