Oh I have been looking forward to reading this book. Today I’m delighted to share my thoughts on the third instalment in the Lukas Mahler series by Margaret Kirk, In The Blood. I love this Inverness set series and this one is another cracker. My thanks to publisher Orion for the advance review copy, here’s what it’s all about:
About the Book
THE COMPELLING, GOTHIC, BRILLIANTLY ATMOSPHERIC THIRD NOVEL IN THE DI LUKAS MAHLER SERIES
Some cases are personal…
Tied to a derelict pier on Orkney, the bloated remains of a man bob in the waves, under the shadow of forbidding Sandisquoy House. The locals know him as William Spencer.
But DCI Lukas Mahler identifies him as Alex Fleming – his former boss.
Unable to step away from the case, Mahler tries to piece together why Fleming would retire to such a remote location. But the deeper he digs, the more disturbing the investigation becomes.
Seal bones, witches’ salve, and runic symbols appear everywhere he looks, ushering Mahler towards Fleming’s most notorious unsolved case: the ‘Witchfinder’ murders. And towards a dark and uncomfortable truth someone has gone to great lengths to bury…
I’d forgotten how much I like Lukas Mahler and the team in Inverness. He’s far from perfect as a character – haunted by his past and prone to feelings of guilt – but he is very likeable and I find myself easily rooting for him and hoping that he is able to get to the bottom of whatever complex case Margaret Kirk has thrown his way. And believe me, when it comes to complex, this one is a doozy. Not only that but it has. very personal connections for Mahler, ones which may yet prove to be his undoing.
Now when it comes to unusual deaths, the murder that opens up this book is both simple and yet strangely stomach churning at the same time. It’s a relatively straightforward case of drowning – after a fashion – but it is in a far from straightforward location, and with the victim residing in a place which is isolated, unwelcoming and the subject of real local legend, the case is anything but plain sailing for Mahler and the police team on Orkney where the victim, Alex Fleming, resides. When you add in the fact that Mahler knows and has worked with the victim and that last case they worked on was complex and unresolved, the list of suspects is both wide open and also very hard to pin down, especially when you add it he fact that no-one even knew. that he was living there.
This is part urban legend, part murder mystery and the way in which Margaret Kirk has combined a kind of gothic style setting and a supernatural undertone really drew me into the story. This is exactly the kind of mash-up of stories and genres that I love, never quite knowing if there is something slightly less corporeal behind the dastardly deeds that are being done. Everything, from the creepy old house that Fleming hid himself away in, to the macabre discoveries that they make in the wake of the investigation, adds that special layer of suspense and mystery to the story, and the atmospheric setting of a remote part of Orkney in the midst of some very changeable weather fronts adds to the tension that builds throughout the book.
There are several threads to the story, adn certainly exploring some of the case which Fleming and Mahler worked on in London helps readers to discover more about Mahler’s past, as well as leading to some very chilling aspects in the current case. alongside this, Mahler’s on-off relationship with Anna is sorely tested as they await the outcome of an appeal by a former foe. Whilst this won’t necessarily be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction in this book, it certainly sets up the promise of something very dark and menacing to come.
I tore through this book in pretty much one sitting, loving both the back and forth between the characters and the suspense filled storyline. The book sees Mahler in a temporary promotion, and that in itself is a source of some conflict as he cannot quite bring himself to step away from the investigation, much to the chagrin of his boss, Chae Hunt. There are other elements of conflict which are dotted throughout the book, covert operations into local drugs cartels, and the threat really does come from some very surprising places, keeping readers fully on their toes. I certainly didn’t see what was coming until it hit me, and slightly more literally Mahler, square in the face. But I definitely loved it and cannot wait to see what the author serves up next.
Most definitely recommended, although if you’ve not read at least book one, I suggest you take a quick trip back to the start, one because you are missing a treat if you don’t, but there are key scenes from this book that link back to Mahler’s first case so you won’t want to miss it. I am now off to make plans to travel to Orkney whenever covid and travel restrictions allow. Margaret Kirk has whet my appetite for a visit.
About the Author
Margaret Kirk writes ‘Highland Noir’ Scottish crime fiction, set in and around her home town of Inverness.
Her debut novel, Shadow Man, won the Good Housekeeping First Novel Competition in 2016. Described as ‘a harrowing and horrific game of consequences’ by Val McDermid, it was published in 2017 by Orion. Book 2 in the DI Lukas Mahler series, What Lies Buried, was published on 13th June 2019. Book 3, In The Blood, will be released by Orion (virus permitting) in October 2020.
Margaret is also the writer of several award-winning short stories, including The Seal Singers, which has been published in translation in Germany. She has contributed a short story, Still Life, to the Noir From The Bar anthology, which has been compiled to raise funds for NHS charities.