The Night Watch by Neil Lancaster

Today I am delighted to share my thoughts on The Night Watch, the brand new Max Craigie thriller from Neil Lancaster. I was late to the series but have really enjoyed catching up over the past few weeks. I have to say a big thank you to publisher HQ for the advance copy via NetGalley. Here’s what the book is all about:

Source: Netgalley
Release Date: 08 September 2022
Publisher: HQ

About the Book

He’ll watch you.
A lawyer is found dead at sunrise on a lonely clifftop at Dunnet Head on the northernmost tip of Scotland. It was supposed to be his honeymoon, but now his wife will never see him again.

He’ll hunt you.
The case is linked to several mysterious deaths, including the murder of the lawyer’s last client – Scotland’s most notorious criminal… who had just walked free. DS Max Craigie knows this can only mean one thing: they have a vigilante serial killer on their hands.

He’ll leave you to die.
But this time the killer isn’t on the run; he’s on the investigation team. And the rules are different when the murderer is this close to home.

He knows their weaknesses, knows how to stay hidden, and he thinks he’s above the law…

Max, Janie and Ross return in the third gripping novel in this explosive Scottish crime series.

My Thoughts

I really do enjoy the Max Craigie series of books. Neil Lancaster has created a brilliant cast of characters, from Craigie himself to his partner in crime-fighting, DC Janie Calder, their gruff and boss, DI Ross Fraser to their wonderful, vibrant and talented support team of analyst, Norma, and ex spook and tech expert, Barney. Between them you get the special camaraderie, humour but, more importantly, a team who are 100% focused on justice and rooting out the worst and most corrupt members of the Police Scotland team. This is no ordinary team – the Policing Standards Reassurance Team aren’t there to just investigate crime. They also investigate the investigators, even if they don’t always realise it.

In The Night Watch the team are faced with a particularly worrying and puzzling set of crimes in which the victim, or potentially victims, are far from your sympathetic types. In fact, given what they know about the deceased, at least in the first case presented to them, you could almost forgive them for not really being all that bothered about solving a crime. But, murder is murder, even if the victim is himself a known killer for hire. Or at least a suspected one – never convicted. And that, in essence is the issue. I loved the way the case is set up, the mystery surrounding the victim and how he is cornered. A kind of is it or isn’t it what we think it is scenario that is soon answered a couple of chapters a long, but perhaps not in the way we were expecting. And it’s not long before we meet victim number two, although officially linking the two cases will be harder than you’d think.

The book is fast paced, the story really engrossing and I finished it within a day. As much as I may have thought I had a handle on who was guilty of what, Neil Lancaster skilfully wove in surprises and shocks, but none that felt they came from left field. The more you thought about what was happening, the more sense it all made. There is a lot of tension that really builds towards the end as the team circle around their suspect and draw us towards a conclusion. And in true Max Craigie style, this is going to be no straightforward and simple take down, the risk the team are in increasing exponentially with each page turn. I could feel the adrenaline pumping, and found myself moving towards the edge of that metaphorical seat as the action ramped up, wondering how in the hell they were going to get out of this particular scrape. I love that the team are not painted as superheroes, that they are as fallible and in as much danger as anyone else. I also like that I trust Neil Lancaster to get them out of it. I’m not ready for this series to end right now.

What I’ve loved about this series is the way in which it presents a very different view of the police force whilst still maintaining a brilliant mystery and investigation at its heart. Not one person could say that they believed all police officers were perfect, that corruption hasn’t been present in the service and that there are not the odd bad egg in amongst the many hard working officers who need to be brought to task. And often, as we have seen all too much of in real life of late, they hide in plain sight. The blatant vigilante justice that is being mete on the victims can never be justified, and that’s not the point of this book. It doesn’t ceIt does serve to highlight the damage done by the vigilante when it comes to their colleagues and the fact that their reputations and possibly their futures are forever associated with the crimes that happened under their nose, certainly one to think about when people rush to judgment on all officers, and to profess a deep mistrust of all when it is the actions of just one that should be condemned.

There is a real sense of authenticity in the writing, a clear knowledge of what goes on behind the scenes that informs the story without being overbearing. It helps propel the action scenes, draws you into the investigation and the banter and fun times between the characters really holds my attention. I can’t wait to see just what might come next for the team and to find out if Ross manages to stick to his strict mung bean salad filled diet. Highly recommended for fans of Police thrillers.

About the Author

NEIL LANCASTER is the No. 1 digital bestselling author of both the Tom Novak and Max Craigie series. His first Craigie novel, Dead Man’s Grave, was longlisted for the 2021 McIlvanney Prize for Best Scottish Crime Book of the Year. The second Craigie novel, The Blood Tide, topped several ebook and audio charts. It was also longlisted for the 2022 McIlvanney Prize and shortlisted for Best New Series at the Dead Good Reader Awards.

Neil served as a military policeman and worked for the Metropolitan Police as a detective, investigating serious crimes in the capital and beyond. As a covert policing specialist, he used all manner of techniques to investigate and disrupt major crime and criminals. He now lives in the Scottish Highlands, writes crime and thriller novels and works as a broadcaster and commentator on true crime documentaries. He is an expert on two Sky Crime TV series, Meet, Marry, Murder and Made for Murder.

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