Written by Craig Robertson — Reading crime fiction is an education. Imaginative modes of death notwithstanding, you get the lowdown on some pretty unusual subjects. For example, everything this reviewer knows about geocaching came from the pages of Code, a YA thriller by Kathy and Brendan Reichs.
To my ever-expanding knowledge I can now add ‘urbexing’ – a practise which plays huge part in Craig Robertson’s latest Narey and Winter investigation. Never heard of it? urbandictionary.com defines it as: “The act of exploring urban areas that are generally off-limits to regular civilians.” That’s exactly what Remy Feeks is doing as the story begins.
Remy spends his days herding trolleys at the local supermarket, but by night he likes to go and visit long-forgotten parts of Glasgow. Tonight’s destination of choice is the Molendinar Tunnel, the culverted remains of an ancient stream running beneath the city. He goes for the buzz, the thrill of the unknown. And leaves, running and screaming, after finding the body of a man with his throat cut.
Remy’s explorations are not strictly legal, and that’s why he makes an anonymous call to the police to alert them about his grisly find. Big mistake.
It’s up to recently promoted DI Rachel Narey to step up to the plate on her first murder case since taking up her new rank. She’s under pressure to find out who the victim is, what he was doing in such a godforsaken spot and who killed him, but there is something about the dead man that niggles with police photographer Tony Winter, and once the pieces begin to fall into place for him, he sets off on a lead of his own.
That’s risky for a number of reasons, because it soon becomes clear that the Molendinar isn’t the only urbexing site to have seen death recently. Oh, and as Rachel just happens to be Tony’s girlfriend, his secretive ways are also destined to cause relationship ructions. Mind you, secrecy is the order of the day for these two, as they’re still keeping their relationship quiet from colleagues!
In Place of Death is the fifth in Craig Robertson‘s Narey and Winter and we’ve previously reviewed Cold Grave and Witness the Dead. Rachel is a finely balanced character, a career-driven woman who is fighting overt discrimination at every end and turn. She can come across as hard-headed, grumpy and tough but still has time for compassion when it’s needed. Tony Winter reminds me very much of another character with the same first name – Val McDermid’s Dr Tony Hill, another man who is prone to thoughtlessly rushing in where angels fear to tread. Narey and Winter make an entertaining if exasperating combination, adding extra spice to a book already brimming with tasty morsels.
At the heart of everything is the city of Glasgow, lovingly drawn by an author who obviously holds it close to his heart. We are taken on a veritable tour of forgotten historical gems, from the aforementioned Molendinar Tunnel to the Odeon Cinema, Gray Dunn Biscuits factory and Glasgow Tower – the scene of a couple of the most hold-your-breath moments in this compelling read.
Former journalist Robertson’s debut novel, Random, was shortlisted for the CWA New Blood Dagger and introduced the then DS Rachel Narey to readers. Since then, the author has rightfully joined that ever-expanding list of top Scottish crime writers. In Place of Death underlines the reason why he is worthy of that place.
Simon & Schuster
CFL Rating: 5 Stars