Sins of the Dead

Written by Lin Anderson — Forensic scientist Rhona MacLeod is on her 13th case and she’s seen her fair share of death threats. In this, the latest of the series with ‘Dead’ in the title, Rhona is in harm’s way again when she is clearly being stalked as she investigates a ritualistic killer.

Rhona’s forensic skills have sent her to many locations to investigate hideous murders, including Orkney, Norway and the Highlands, but this time the crimes are happening on her doorstep in Glasgow.

A group of female Harley-Davidson riders are racing illegally in the off-limits underground tunnels beneath the city when they make a gruesome discovery next to a wrecked car. A well-dressed young man is laid out with his hands on his chest, while nearby is half a glass of red wine and a nibbled piece of bread. Is this a weird suicide?

Among the bikers is Ellie, who checks the body for vital signs and is momentarily dazzled by a torch light. She’s terrified that they may be in the sights of a dangerous intruder in the tunnels and if they come forward as witnesses they will be vulnerable. Ellie is also the current girlfriend of DS Michael McNab, who works closely with Rhona, and Ellie fears he won’t take well to her illegal racing and she wants to protect her fellow bikers from negative publicity. She keeps schtum, which jeopardises their relationship.

Rhona examines the body, but any notion that this may have been a suicide is rejected when another body is found with more bread and wine near her home. There are more strange rituals involving wine and breadcrumbs associated with bodies at a nearby funeral parlour.

When forensic psychologist Professor Magnus Pirie is called in, a regular member of the Dead series cast, he suggests that the last supper ingredients could be related to an ancient painting of a medieval sin-eater, a grotesque goblin who eats the sins of the dead to give them absolution. If this is murder, there is an organised killer in the city.

Lin Anderson takes her craft seriously and attended a forensic science medical course at Glasgow University, which together with forensic scientist friends, give her fictional Rhona credible methods. In Sins of the Dead, the killer appears to be clued up about covering his or her tracks and Rhona suspects they have been learned at her own forensic science lectures at the university. It’s not as simple as drawing up a list of suspects, as there are thousands of people viewing the lectures online.

The murderer is literally playing her at her own game and relishing the challenge.

Rhona has caught the attention of the killer or at the very least, someone who has it in for her. Her cat has been seemingly poisoned, she’s had an intruder in her flat and she’s bugged by mysterious phone calls. There’s too many links to her for her liking, compounded when she is set up doing her job when her DNA contaminates a scene, threatening her livelihood and sanity. She’s also having a break from her occasional live-in lover Sean, whilst her working relationship with McNab is tetchy to say the least. There’s also a new admirer on the scene, which may or may not be a good thing.

Meanwhile McNab is worried sick when Ellie goes missing after avoiding him. He’s a maverick so goes after his girl.

Rhona is always totally committed to finding justice for the victims. She sits with them quietly while writing up her notes, asking them questions and paying her respects. She’s fallible and the interaction between her and her regular fellow investigators is skilfully drawn, even if you haven’t met them before. As always, this is another thrilling and pacy read with a race to the finish that doesn’t let up. We hope Rhona won’t be giving up her job, whatever the personal cost.

For another female forensic scientist character try Elly Griffith’s Dr Ruth Galloway series, or Kathy Reichs’ Tempe Brennan books.

Macmillan
Print/Kindle/iBook
£12.99

CFL Rating: 4 Stars

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