Nowhere to Run by James Oswald

Nowhere To Run by James Oswald

Nowhere to Run is the third book in the Constance Fairchild series by James Oswald. Recovering from her ordeal in the last book, Con is living in a remote cottage near Aberystwyth when covid forces her to stay put for a bit longer. In fact, she’s not entirely sure she wants to go back to her old life at all.

After she is attacked on the way back from the pub, and ends up in a cell for defending herself,  along with Lila, a young Ukrainian woman who is trying to escape from her manipulative violent boyfriend, Con finds herself up against some seriously nasty people. Far away from her usual backup, she has to rely on her own resources to get out of trouble. James Oswald really puts Con through the wringer, and you have to keep reminding yourself that this is fiction, not real life. I read this in two sessions as I literally could not put it down.

Told entirely from Con’s point of view, we are right in the thick of it as she tries to find out who is behind the people trafficking and drug smuggling. The Welsh coastal setting is atmospheric, and the sense of otherness, invoked by the traditional legends and folklore woven seamlessly into the narrative, is what we have come to expect from James Oswald, and he does it so well.

Nowhere to Run combines great storytelling with well-drawn characters and a tense, fast-moving plot. Trouble seems to follow Con wherever she goes, and she has a tendency to act first and think later, but she will not stop until the case is solved. There were appearances from some old friends from the two previous books, particularly her neighbour in London who brings her coffee and delicious food, but the star of the show, without a doubt, was the deerhound, Gelert. I am not normally a dog person, but I would definitely like one just like him.  

I have read and enjoyed all of James Oswald’s books and Nowhere to Run is a great addition to the series. Although you could read this as a standalone, you would get so much more out of it if you read the others first. Thanks to Wildfire and NetGalley for a digital copy to review.

 

The Accused by Owen Mullen

The Accused by Owen Mullen

The Accused is the fourth book in the series featuring Owen Mullen’s private detective Charlie Cameron. I have only read one of the others so far, but this works fine as a standalone. Two very different women come to Charlie’s office seeking his help. Kim Rafferty, wife of a vicious gangster, feels her life is in danger and wants to disappear before it’s too late. Charlie has had dealings with Sean Rafferty before and feels it won’t end well for him. Diane Kennedy wants him to solve a fifteen-year-old murder that her friend Dennis Boyd was imprisoned for. Newly released from Barlinnie, and still pleading his innocence, Dennis is in danger of being locked up again for good when the witnesses who lied to convict him start turning up dead.

Unusually, this book features two separate plot lines that don’t appear to converge. One strand is told from multiple viewpoints in the third person, which works well; the other we mostly see through Charlie’s eyes which gives us an insight into his thoughts as well as his actions. The characters are well drawn and easy to differentiate, and it’s good to see the return of a few old favourites. The extracts from Pat Logue’s book of quotations add a bit of light relief. The strong sense of place was one of the highlights of the book; I could so easily picture where he was going as he walked the streets of Glasgow.

This book is not for those of a nervous disposition as the brutality is extreme, though appropriate for the criminal underworld being portrayed.  The plot is complex, taking many twists and wrong turns along the way, fast paced and gripping. The book ends with some things unresolved, paving the way nicely for the next Charlie Cameron adventure. Thanks to Boldwood Books and NetGalley for a digital copy to review.    

   

The Heretic by Liam McIlvanney

The Heretic by Liam McIlvanney

DI Duncan McCormack, responsible for catching the notorious ‘Quaker’ six years previously, and uncovering corruption which led to a senior police officer going to jail, has returned to Glasgow from the Met. He and his colleagues in the Serious Crime Squad are keen to find evidence that will lead to the conviction of Walter Maitland, head of one of the two notorious crime families that control Glasgow, but are finding it very hard to come by.

The body of what appears to be a vagrant is found in a back yard among the rubbish, there is an arson attack at a warehouse that spreads to a nearby tenement resulting in the deaths of four people, and a police officer is among those killed when a car bomb explodes outside a pub. McCormack and his team have the difficult job of working out if and how these crimes are connected.

Liam McIlvanney is a gifted storyteller who has captured perfectly the sexism, sectarianism and homophobia of Glasgow in 1975 where whole areas of the city were being flattened to make way for the M8 motorway, and the black bags were piled up in the streets because the bin men were on strike. This dark and complex story features a cast of wonderfully drawn characters, realistic dialogue and the black humour often used in the face of such violence and brutality. It highlights how different a police investigation would have been back then without all the things they rely on now – mobile phones, DNA, CCTV and computers.

I read a lot of Scottish crime fiction and this is up there with the best. While The Heretic works fine as a standalone, with just enough back story to enable the reader to make sense of it, I fully intend to read The Quaker next to catch up. I understand there will also be a third book featuring DI McCormack to look forward to. Thanks to HarperCollins and NetGalley for a digital copy to review.       

Next in Line by Marion Todd

Next in Line by Marion Todd

Next in Line is the fifth book in the DI Clare Mackay series set in St Andrews. I have enjoyed them all, and the unusual setting is one of the attractions. Clare is called back from the wedding of her ex, when a dead body is discovered at Lamond Lodge, where a group of old friends were celebrating a birthday. The victim turns out to be the brother of TV personality Gaby Fox, who had also been at the wedding.

The motive for the killing is not obvious at first, and Clare and her team find it difficult to make any headway as everyone seems to hiding something. Short chapters move the story along and the mystery is slowly unravelled. This is a believable police investigation, with lots of setbacks and changes of direction, where the reader knows everything the police do, but there is no input from the killer. Several times I thought I had it worked out only to discover I was yet again being led up the garden path. The characters are well drawn, and the team of police officers has become well known to the reader over the course of the previous four books, with just enough detail about their private lives to make them believable. I look forward to reading the next book in the series, Old Bones Lie, when it is published later in the year. Thanks to Canelo and NetGalley for a digital copy to review.

The Return by Anita Frank

The Return by Anita Frank

Set in the Berkshire countryside between 1939 and 1945, The Return is a dual timeline story of flawed and complex characters, Jack and Gwen, who are both harbouring secrets that could have a devastating effect on all their lives. It took me a while to warm to Gwen, but I was full of admiration for her tenacity and determination to give her son, Tom, the best life she could. Jack, on the other hand, is a wonderful character right from the start despite how he sees himself. He has a strong moral compass, and only resorts to violence in defence of those he cares about.

The story is structured so that we only gradually learn what Jack is running from and why he is so on edge.  Although The Return is set during the second world war, it is not a story about the war. It is a beautifully written description of the harsh reality of the sheer hard work involved in running a farm at that time, but also a lyrical portrait of the landscape and the rhythm of the passing seasons. It also highlights the contrast between the lives and behaviour of the haves and have-nots. I really liked the ending as I had anticipated a much different outcome. This is the first book I have read by Anita Frank, but it won’t be the last. Thanks to HQ and NetGalley for a digital copy to review.