November 29, 2011

Murder in Scotland

A version of this review was originally written for Shelf Awareness, although it has not yet been published there.

A Double Death on the Black Isle is A.D. Scott’s second novel featuring the staff of the Highland Gazette newspaper. Joanne Ross, its newest reporter, is a rare creature for the 1950s—a working mother who is separated from her abusive husband.

The book opens with an explosion on a fishing boat—big news in their small highland town. Joanne is then astonished to discover that her oldest friend, Patricia Ord Mackenzie, is pregnant with the fisherman’s child, and is about to marry him, much to her mother’s disapproval...

The mystery only deepens when two men connected to the Ord Mackenzie’s Black Isle estate turn up dead on the same day. The police declare one death an accident, and arrest two men on manslaughter charges for the other, but the staff of the newspaper isn’t convinced that they’re right in either instance. As the case goes to trial Joanne is drawn further into the mystery, both because of her friendship with Patricia, and because of her mother-in-law’s connection to one of the dead men.

At first the abrupt, modern writing style of the book jarred with seemingly anachronistic references to typewriters, until around page 25 when it was made clear that the book was set in the 1950s, and the style was meant to lend a sense of urgency to the small town newspaper. [Maybe I was being more blonde than normal? But it seriously took me that long to realize it was a historical setting.] But the mystery is compelling, and the glimpse into an insular society from another era is fascinating. Scott has created a likeable set of characters who seem likely to continue investigating crimes together for many years to come.

Should I recommend this to my grandma? Sure!
Rating? 3.5 out of 5

I've mentioned Ian Rankin before -- he's one of my favorite Scottish authors. Have you read any books set in Scotland?

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