Written by TF Muir — Back in 2014 I reviewed The Meating Room by the same author and it took months to scour some of the gorier moments of that tale from my subconscious. The latest in the DCI Andy Gilchrist series – we’re now at number six – is a little less stomach-churning but just as engrossing. Gilchrist is a man known for living on the edge, as far as his investigations are concerned. In Blood Torment, it looks like he is destined to drop over the precipice and into oblivion if he doesn’t buck his ideas up.
Little Katie Davis has gone missing and Gilchrist is handed the case. But his suspicions are soon on high alert – the girl’s mother, Andrea, seems a little too calm about the disappearance and her somewhat blasé attitude sets alarm bells ringing. Are Gilchrist and his team about to be investigating a murder rather than a disappearance?
The DCI and his DS, Jessie Janes are an interesting double act. Both like to bend the rules a little and neither is averse to letting their feelings be known. Diplomacy is in short supply in Fife Constabulary, it seems.
Which is a bit of a problem when it emerges that Andrea Davis is the daughter of a disgraced member of the Scottish Parliament who still seems to be able to pull the political strings. Andrea’s mother is also a personal friend of the chief constable – we have all the makings of a titanic clash of wills before this thing is out.
With no clues and the clock ticking, the police pull in paedophile Sammie Bell, recently released from prison, for interrogation. He lives nearby and has some pretty dodgy stuff on his computer, but they have no concrete evidence and let him go – only for his badly mutilated body to be found on the beach a few hours later. This case seems to be going nowhere but down.
Like wriggling insects under a rock, dark family secrets are uncovered as Gilchrist and Janes attempt to separate the truth from an ever-growing mountain of lies told to them by the Davis clan. They were ripped asunder when patriarch Dougal David hit the headlines and lost his parliamentary seat, now none of them are speaking to each other. Who can be trusted in a family for whom the word dysfunctional seems a little lightweight?
Meanwhile, Gilchrist has family problems of his own and there are times when he needs to go off piste to sort them. He may be an officer of the law but our man is not averse to a little flexing of the rules when necessary. He is a flawed but likeable character, while Jessie Janes is a fiery female who would make a great companion on a girls’ night out. They are supported by a mighty cast of team members who go off and do all the grunt work while our not-so-dynamic duo go out and about.
2016 appears to be the year of missing people, with Amanda Jennings’ In Her Wake, Sarah Hilary’s Tastes Like Fear and Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner all on my reviews bookshelf. Perhaps that’s why I had unraveled some of the intrigue here by about halfway through the book. That aside, I found myself getting pulled in by this novel. I love the dark and desperate locations that TF Muir finds in genteel St Andrews and applaud his no-punches-pulled attention to gory detail – best not read the description of Sammie Bell’s battered body while eating.
CFL Rating: 4 Stars