The title of this latest novel in a series by famous Scottish writer Lin Anderson sounds like a marine idiom. The tides wait for no one and can be dammed, turned and swam with or against, but the tide that carries an abandoned ship to the shores of the Orkney Islands at the beginning of the book is certainly not responsible for the deaths on board.
Three bodies are found in gruesome circumstances – two men disguised as Vikings are found dead from vicious sword wounds in a battle arena on the ship, while a third body has been burned. Forensic pathologist Rhona MacLeod, who is already investigating a woman’s alleged self-immolation outside a Glasgow apartment building, is being sent north to investigate.
The descriptions of the autopsies that followed are not for the faint of heart, but if you are the type who is fascinated to learn that forensic vomiting tests will not reveal the identity of the person who has it. issued – and I find that I am – you should not be in phase. The palpable descriptions of the scent of a burnt human, however, might finish you off.
The characters in the show have been clearly established for a long time with background stories and entangled relationships with each other, both professional and romantic. Previous cases are mentioned which might confuse a novice reader, but fans will appreciate the updates on who is sleeping with whom and which characters hold a grudge.
Glasgow cop DS Michael McNab takes center stage, as does investigative journalist Ava Clouston, who returned to the family farm in Orkney after the death of her parents. McNab is a complicated character, not entirely likable in his unhealthy fixation with an ex-girlfriend. He inspires the confidence of his colleagues, despite his relentless habit of going off the slopes and getting beaten up. Ava is a veteran of integrated Mujahedin investigations in Afghanistan. She skillfully navigates the dangers of her craft, protecting her sources and making sound decisions about what to share with the police investigation.
It’s a fascinating story, told at breakneck speed. The characters’ love lives are as complicated as the crimes, with affairs on the sleeper and flirtations on the Orkney helicopter. Who knew transportation could be such a hotbed of romance?
The peripheral characters are not as well sketched as the main protagonists. Irish folk is musical and laid back, Orcadians are gentle and attached to the landscape, Glasgowians are ironic, and if you are a South of the Border character you are most likely arrogant, cruel, or corrupt. Perhaps such shorthand is understandable in a cast of many.
This novel is less of a thriller – there are few surprises in the narrative – and more of a fascinating examination of how police and journalists determine a gruesome truth.
The Deadly Tide, by Lin Anderson, Macmillan, £ 14.99
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