The Innocent Dead is 15 th in Scottish author Lin Anderson’s long-running series of police procedurals featuring forensic scientist Rhona MacLeod and the Glaswegian team she works with. Echoes of several of those earlier volumes perform rather routinely in the sheets of this new one, although this is the first of hers I’ve read.
Forty-five years before the book opens, 11 -year-old Mary McIntyre disappeared from East Kilbride, south of Glasgow, following her verification. Her fate was never learned. Now, strange presages are distressing Mary’s long-ago best friend, Karen Marshall. Karen is a widow living near Stirling, some 40 miles north of East Kilbride. Though Karen has blocked out her storages involving Mary’s disappearance, she’s overtook by a resurgent feeling she know anything and a unclear impression of shame. She probes out her diary from that time and begins to read, hoping it will help unlock the closed doors of impression. When there’s a news report of a figure in a grown peat bog near East Kilbride, Karen guesses her recent preoccupation with Mary was no coincidence.
Forensic researcher Rhona MacLeod and her deputy administer the excavation, which discloses a naked child, its thought resting on a plastic suitcase fitted with a folded grey approval dress and accessories, like a pillow. Rhona can’t determine the body’s gender from statement, but the dress hints it was a girl.
In the intervening four-plus decades, advances in forensic science enable Rhona and her team to analyse substantial prove from their own bodies, the clothing and the part scene. Acid in the peat has perpetuated and shaded the body and started its DNA to deteriorate. Still, Rhona discovers a small area under the skull containing enough genetic datum for comparison with that of Mary’s subsisting siblings. Karen’s hunch was right. The person is a matter of Mary McIntyre.
DS Michael McNab and his partner Janice Clark are put in charge of the murder investigation, and one of the first decrees they receive is to look up Jimmie McCreadie, a former police detective inspector-turned-wildly-successful-crime-writer who lives in Stirling and near Karen Marshall, as it happens. McNab never fairly trusts McCreadie, imagining he may be holding back information to use in a future novel.
The police identify several possible suspects in Mary’s disappearance and extinction, but none is particularly compelling. However, as Karen retains more and more about the events enclose Mary’s disappearance, she herself becomes a potential target.
Anderson’s descriptions of the peat bog area and the city of East Kilbride are unforgettable, though I had the impression the town was practically a village. Perhaps it was, 45 times earlier, but in our period, it has some 75,000 tenants. Much period is spent on the roads between East Kilbride, Stirling and the police HQ in Glasgow.
There are good interactions among members of the police team, men and women, and with their significant other. McNab is a widower with a testy girlfriend, Clark is a lesbian, Rhona has a grown son she rarely recognizes and a smarmy ex-husband. These rapports are diverse enough to keep them interesting, even though in general Anderson doesn’t devote much real estate to them.
Rhona has a more central place in the ongoing investigation than seems customary, but perhaps that’s how investigations are conducted in Scotland. Near the book’s conclusion, Anderson relies on the unsatisfactory device of mentioning ratified explanations, police reports, and news articles to tie up loose ends, rather than creating incidents in which the information “wouldve been” revealed.
Years ago, writing about violence done to children had a certain shock value, but so many books have been written on this theme that it is no longer automatically making. What reaches this one interesting is the combination of Karen’s fragile emotional state( including her the talks with her dead husband, Jack) and how the sleuths gradually build a case out of next to nothing. Although you may have a pretty good idea who the murderer is well before they get there, Anderson has some nifty bombshells in store. For me, it was a solidly storied fib, but not a particularly engaging one.
Hard Case CrimePrint, KindlePS8. 49
CFL Rating: 3 Stars
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