Book six of this cosy-ish crime series set in 1920s Scotland finds Dandelion Gilver, Dandy to her friends, summoned to Dunfermline on a mysterious commission and a case which involves two feuding merchant families. Stage left, The Aitkens, owners of Aitkens’ Emporium and stage right the Johnny-come-lately Hepburn family, proprietors of the upmarket department store House of Hepburn. The author kindly includes family trees for this tongue-in-cheek take on the Capulet and Montague clans and by story end only the most attentive reader will not have made use of them. While this series has great period detail and a pair of eminently likeable upper middle-class sleuths in Dandy and her long-suffering sidekick Alec Osborne, I found this particular title a slightly torturous read. A cast of millions, layers upon layer of sometimes overly descriptive detail and ultimately a dark and faintly depressing dénouement.
Based on a disturbing and tawdry real life crime, Laura Wilson’s trilogy featuring Detective Inspector Ted Stratton, reaches the post-war period. Wilson beautifully captures the mixed emotions of the times and shows that the hardships of war are still very much evident in London, as are the privations of peace.
Stratton’s investigation into the murder of a pregnant mother and toddler initially seems straightforward with a voluntary confession from the husband/father of the victims. Justice is meted out but later as the body count continues it become clear that the real perpetrator is alive and killing. D.I. Stratton is a solid, straight-forward and likeable character bogged down by police bureaucracy, and struggling with grief and guilt over the death of his wife. Once again Laura Wilson successfully weaves Stratton’s domestic life and his “friendship” with recurring character Diane Calthorp into a satisfying and sophisticated read.
A runaway e-book bestseller, The hanging shed is set in post-WWII Glasgow and introduces Douglas Brodie, ex-cop, ex-soldier and now a freelance journalist teetering on the verge of alcoholism and poverty. His former school pal, Hugh Donovan, has been found guilty of murder and is all set to hang at the notorious Barlinne Prison. Donovan vehemently maintains his innocence and Brodie agrees to re-investigate the case. First stop is Donovan’s lawyer Sam Campbell, a classic Hitchcock blonde, and with slightly tedious inevitability the thriller’s love interest.
Cool, icy blonde clichés aside this is an engaging title: fast-paced action sequences, corrupt cops, the mean streets of The Gorbals and period “Weedgie” lingo as well as a complex and well-drawn central character all contribute to a very credible detective debut.
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