Karen is struggling following the recent death of her husband, and might be starting to remember something about the events of years ago, but can she trust her mind not to play tricks on her? Meanwhile, two swimmers find the body of a girl left in the peat bog. The preserved remains could be the body of Mary McIntyre, a little girl who went missing decades ago, a case that has haunted the community and the officer who couldn’t solve her case.
Rhona MacLeod is the forensic scientist on the case, and is the lead in this Glasgow set police procedural style novel. I think I may have read one of this series before, a few years back, but the way the novel functions and the kinds of recurring characters feel familiar to these kinds of stories. In a good way. It means you can dive right in and don’t have to have read the whole series to enjoy this one, but also the characters are unique enough that the book doesn’t feel derivative. It does have a tone that feels a little like a TV show of this genre, in some ways, and the characters personal dramas are a big part of the story, as well as the central mystery.
There’s an interesting theme of the mind here. Karen knows something that she’s pushed down so far that she can’t remember it. Something that happened when she was 10. And then Rhona also is struggling to come back to work after suffering from events in a previous book that left her with PTSD, events that her mind won’t let her forget. There is also a psychologist in this book who works with the police, but is juxtaposed with a criminal, a manipulative psychopath, who also has psychology degrees that he earned while in prison. It’s makes for interesting reading.
I really liked the setting for this series too. I love the imagery of cold, moors, bogs. Characters with names like Magnus, Dougal and Rhona. The importance of religion, Catholic vs Protestant, that’s part of this book and what it means in the community where the crime happens. I loved when the characters ate sausage sandwiches, haggis rolls and grumbled about porridge pots. Actually, the forensic science used to identify and examine the remains in the bog were really interesting and felt unique too.
I love a good mystery and really tore through this one. It’s a good read and as the seasons change and get colder it feels just right for this time of year. I think my criticisms are really small ones. I don’t mind that the book reads like a TV series because this is a series that I would watch, and I love this kind of thing. There were a few moments that I found slow, I might not have felt this way if I read the series in order because I may have found the characters personal dramas meant more, but it does get going. There were also a lot of characters and sometimes they’re referred to by their title and sometimes by their first name. It makes sense in the context of telling the story, but sometimes I forgot that Dr Pirie and Magnus are one and the same. But that said, I enjoyed this enough to read it over 2 nights, which I wouldn’t if I hadn’t been enjoying it.
Read It If: fans of Rhona will love this new installment, I think, and any of you that love UK police procedurals or mystery novels. (This one does have a story about a child murder, so be aware of that going in if those kinds of stories really upset you.)
Huge thank you to PGC Books for sending me the ARC of this book for review. All opinions are, as always, my own honest thoughts.
The Innocent Dead is out now.