Blood Runs Cold by Neil Lancaster

Today I’m sharing my thoughts on the fourth book in the Max Craigie series from Neil Lancaster, Blood Runs Cold. I’d also like to wish the auhthor a very happy publication day. I have raced through a catch up of the first three books and have to say the series just goes from strength to strength. My thanks to publisher HQ who furnished me with an early copy via Netgalley. Here’s what it’s all about:

Source: Netgalley
Release Date: 13 April 2023
Publisher: HQ

About the Book

She was taken against her will.

On her fifteenth birthday, trafficking victim Affi Smith goes for a run and never returns. With a new identity and secure home in the Scottish Highlands, she was supposed to be safe…

She escaped once.

With personal ties to Affi’s case, DS Max Craigie joins the investigation. When he discovers other trafficking victims have disappeared in exactly the same circumstances, he knows one thing for certain – there’s a leak somewhere within law-enforcement.

She won’t outrun them again.

The clock is ticking… Max must catch Affi’s kidnappers and expose the mole before anyone else goes missing. Even it if means turning suspicions onto his own team…

Don’t miss the next book in the DS Max Craigie series! Fans of Ian Rankin and Marion Todd will love this utterly gripping Scottish thriller!

My Thoughts

I love this series. Packed with action, tension and great characterisation it has everything I want from my crime fiction and more. It’s almost impossible not to love the team of Max Craigie, Janie Calder, Ross Fraser and Norma Kirk. Their’s is a friendship packed with banter, often quite colourful when it comes to Ross’s responses to any difficult or testing situation, but always, unfalteringly, ensuring that they have each others backs in times of trouble. Add in private contractor, Barney, who matches the team for banter and smarts step for step, and we have a team I just can’t get enough of. Their goal is to root our corruption from within the Police, and it seems as though they have a never ending stream of suspects to round up. In The Blood Tide, what starts out as an assist on a missing persons case, soon puts Craigie and the team in the crosshairs of a notorious criminal with potentially deadly consequences.

This story touches on several really emotive themes, those of people trafficking, forced labour and county lines drugs running. The missing girl, Affi Smith, had been taken into protective custody by the police having been rescued from her traffickers as part of a County lines operation. She’s a typical teenager, and as such, and owing to limited resources in the local force, her disappearance is perhaps not given as much credence as it should have been. As readers, we are privy to the truth of what happens to Affi, witnesses to the action, but it doesn’t take long for Max Craigie to work out that this is not the case of a moody teenager taking time out. As soon as he is on the case, you know Affi is going to be given the attention she deserves, but will Max’s intervention come too late?

What I liked about this story is the way in which Neil Lancaster is able to give it an air of authenticity, taking readers to an often uncomfortable situation without leading us too far down a dark path. Affi’s abduction is for a very specific reason, and the scenes in which she is ‘prepared’ for her new life of forced prostitution is difficult to read but very believable. The emotional manipulation used to control Affi, doesn’t dim her sense of self, but that feeling of her fear contrasting with her defiance and determination, really worked for the story. It made me invested in Affi’s plight. There is nothing too dark, nothing gratuitous about any of it, but that sense of the coldness and the almost inhuman attitudes of her captors really did get the anger brewing.

As for the man at the top of the tree, there is a calm, clinical, detachment about him which makes the skin crawl without him really having to do anything. Neil Lancaster has created that presence, that feeling of being in the company of evil, so perfectly that it adds conflict to an already taught story. There is an understated power to this story that means nothing has to really happen for the tension to grow. It is just the tone of a sentence spoken, that constant sense of threat, and the fear that drips from the minor characters that really ups the pace of the book, leading us towards a high jeopardy, edge of the seat conclusion.

If you’ve not read any of these books before then you really should. These are character driven stories which hold as much humour as they do tension, and there are often some real laugh out loud moments, especially in response to Ross’s constant aggressive bluster. I love that Max isn’t the only kick ass member of the team, and that Janie can hold her own every bit as well. They’re a great pairing who keep each other on the straight and narrow, although it’s clear Janie has a much bigger job on that score than Max. This case is full of misdirection and surprises, and although some reveals are more obvious that others, there are certainly aspects of the story that I didn’t see coming. I read through this in a day, the pacing being absolutely spot on and the case totally gripping. Most definitely recommended.

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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