Malcolm McKay (2019) A Line of Forgotten Blood.
Posted by celticman on Fri, 06 Sep 2019
Detective novels are straightforward as a pigeon following a trail of breadcrumbs to find out the hand holding a hammer. I hadn't read any of Malcolm Mackay's books before this one, but the greatest compliment you can pay an author is reading another of his books. I'll start -anew-with his earlier debut novel.
Here we have the beginnings of the breadcrumbs.
...some eyeless halfwit had gone straight into the side of her car...Freya began to swear loudly and prodigiously in the car, as a woman from Whisper Hill would, and she toned it down to a feral hiss as she stepped out into public, as a woman living in Cnocaid should.
He wore a dark grey suit and white shirt with yellow tie and a long black coat that was open. He had a trim goatee beard and was bald on top, hair shaved short at the sides and wearing gold-rimmed glasses. He couldn’t have been much past forty...
Freya Dempsey was thirty-one and boldly attractive in a way that warned you in advance she was more than two handfuls...
If you lived in Challaid and your name was Sutherland you had no excuse for not being wealthy, and if you sat on the board of the bank you were probably rich to the extent that counting the zeros on your bank account became a long snooze. Harold laughed at her bad manners
The story of Scotland in detective form resonates far beyond the borders of Challaid. The reader gets to know the population of this (semi) fictional town. We know how long it takes to get to Inverness and Glasgow by train. We know the major industries. We learn how the rich steal from the poor. Every street has a name and the poor and rich live cheek-by-jowl, but in different worlds. A masterclass in place. Challaid is one of the main characters, as a city should be in fiction.
The two gormless detectives investigating the case aren't really detectives. Sholto Douglas is the ex-cop who is the boss. Darian Ross, his younger side-kick, in Douglas Independent Research office on the second floor of a building on the aptly named Cage Street. They can't call themselves private detectives for a whole lot of reasons. But when Vinny. PC Vincent Reno, a friend of Darian's phones asking for help because his ex-wife and mother of their son has went missing, the detectives who are not detectives are on the case.
Fling into the mix, Reno's police partner is on of the illustrious Sutherlands, slumming as a member of the local constabulary and issues of class and family loyalty are thrown into the mix.
Murder, corruption, and the people that own the land own the people on the land
Added depth is given be not looking straight at the murder, but the accumulation of wealth. A crime which gives motive and has been rewarded by even more wealth.
Pleasing to the eye and ear. McKay is a writer that creates worlds that I live in. Great descriptive prose. Loses a bit of impetus by overwriting. Another slightly jarring habit is the omniscient narrator interjecting and sounding very like one of the characters he describes (and it is a he). That apart a book well worth reading. READ ON.