A Song for the Dark Times An Inspector Rebus Novel #23 Ian Rankin
Orion Books, October 2020 (UK)
Little, Brown and Company, October 2020 (US)
Retired Detective John Rebus has just moved one floor down into the ground floor flat in Edinburgh where he’s lived for a number of years. He has COPD and stairs had become a problem. Detective Inspector Siobhan Clarke, his friend and once his partner in solving crimes, has been helping him move.
Leaving Rebus to unpack, Siobhan returns to the Leith Police Station to rejoin the Major Incident Team currently working on the murder of a young, rich, Saudi named Salman bin Mahmoud, who was stabbed to death in what might be a hate crime.
Meantime Rebus gets a call from his daughter Samantha, now living in Tongue, 250miles to the north, with her partner Keith and daughter Carrie. Keith has gone missing and Samantha is at her wit’s end. Rebus immediately abandons his unpacking and hops in his car, heading to Tongue. Sam and Rebus aren’t exactly close due to the fact that during her early years Rebus spent more time cracking cases and catching killers than spending time with his wife and daughter. Now he sees this as an opportunity to get closer to his daughter and granddaughter.
On his arrival Rebus is met by Detective Sergeant Creasey who is in charge of the missing person case, and who is quick to let Rebus know he won’t tolerate interference. When Samantha tells her father she’d had a fight with Keith before he disappeared adding that they’d recently been going through a rough patch, Rebus is prepared to do everything he can to track down Keith. But Sam is fearful her father will only make matters worse. And when Keith’s body is found, Samantha becomes the prime suspect.
Determined to prove his daughter’s innocence Rebus talks to a group of the locals Keith had become involved with on discovering that a POW camp was once located in the area. Keith had been interviewing several members who had been prisoners at the time and who had opted to stay around once the war was over.
When Rebus gets a call from Siobhan he asks how her murder case is proceeding and learns there might be a connection between the death of the Saudi man and Lord Strathy aka Ramsey Meiklejohn a landowner in Tongue. Intrigued, Rebus turns his attention to the landowner paying a visit to his stately home. Lord Strathy isn’t in residence, but when Rebus tries to question the housekeeper, he’s quickly shown the door, leaving him to wonder if he’s found a fresh trail to follow in search of Keith’s killer.
All is not what it seems in the town of Tongue, and Rebus has his hands full as he pokes into the past to uncover the truth.
I very much enjoyed following Rebus on his latest outing…
Check this one out.… You won’t be disappointed.
Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, November 2020.
The Secret of Dunhaven Castle A Cate Kensie Mystery Book 1
Nellie H. Steele
A Novel Idea Publishing, November 2019
How in the world could she now own a castle?
Shy, introverted Dr. Cate Kensie never imagined that she would inherit a beautiful, and oddly quirky, castle nestled in the picturesque Scottish Highlands. Truthfully, she was sure that she didn’t have any family left after her parents died in a car accident several years before, but then she had gotten the phone call, and her entire world had turned upside down.
That was when she discovered that she had family in Scotland, and her distant family member, Gertrude MacKenzie, had passed away, leaving her Dunhaven Castle and a golden timepiece with the mysterious phone call: ALWAYS KEEP AN EYE ON YOUR TIME.
Soon after she leaves the only life she’s ever known in the US with her four-legged best friend, the adorable Riley, she quickly finds that owning this castle is not the fairytale she expected. Mysterious events occur that leave Cate wondering if her new home is haunted or if she’s losing her mind.
Will Cate be able to unravel the mysteries of Dunhaven Castle before it’s too late? Or will the secrets be too much for Cate to handle?
Find out if Cate can uncover the secrets her new home holds in The Secret of Dunhaven Castle!
What little girl doesn’t dream of inheriting a castle and becoming nobility…and, for many, that dream never entirely dies even when we recognize the extreme unlikelihood such a thing will ever happen. So, it’s not surprising that Cate finds her inheritance from an unknown countess is hard to believe but, considering her floundering professorial career and her lack of ties in this country, moving to Scotland definitely has a certain appeal.
Ms. Steele borrows elements from other novels and puts them to good use, things such as the will’s requirement that she must live in the castle in order to inherit and the atmosphere that goes along with an ancient building. Cate is confronted by a number of secrets, not the least of which is why the family name changed at some point and how the branches of the family became estranged. Her background as a history professor is helpful but even that isn’t much use when it comes to figuring out the mysteries of a very unusual watch.
With attractive characters and an interesting plot, this is a nice beginning to an appealing series and, while it didn’t tax my brain too much, I enjoyed the journey with Cate and the adorable Riley and will look forward to the next books.
Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2020.
Murder at Dunhaven Castle
Cate Kensie Mysteries Book 2
If you could go back in time and clear your family’s name, would you?
Dr. Cate Kensie, now known as Lady Catherine Kensie, the mistress of Dunhaven Castle, still can’t believe her life. Somehow, moved to Scotland, inherited a castle that’s more than meets the eye, and is the proud–and sometimes reluctant– owner of an amazing family heirloom. But there’s a secret Cate must protect about her new life, a secret that no one but Jack Reid, the estate manager, knows of.
As Cate learns more about her new home, she discovers that in 1856 there was a murder at Dunhaven and non-other than her own ancestor, Randolph MacKenzie, was accused and convicted of the crime. However, the more she learns about the murder at Dunhaven, the more confusing things become. All of the evidence is there, but the answers still don’t add up.
Will Cate have the courage to dive into a centuries-old murder to clear her family’s name? Or will she find out the hard way that sometimes it’s best to leave the past in the past where it can’t hurt you?
Find out in the nail-biting second installment of the Cate Kensie Mysteries series, Murder at Dunhaven Castle!
As her eyes scanned the newspaper article from 1925, she is shocked to read about the theft of two priceless necklaces from her family’s home. When Cate recognizes one of the stolen necklaces from when she traveled back in time to the year 1856 to solve a murder mystery, Cate knows there’s only one thing left for her to do. Despite the hectic holiday season approaching, complete with two grand holiday events, Cate must travel to 1925 and unravel the mystery surrounding the jewelry theft.
However, things take an unexpected turn when she arrives. As Cate discovers more unanswered questions, she starts to wonder if there’s a piece to the puzzle she has yet to uncover.
While Cate and estate manager, Jack, try to unravel the puzzle in the past, another mystery brews in the present for Cate. Strange and eerie nightmares centered around a bookcase in Dunhaven Castle’s library disrupt Cate’s sleep, rattling her mind even during her waking hours. She wonders if these are connected to the jewelry theft or if something darker lurks in Dunhaven’s halls.
Can Cate solve the mysterious theft of her family’s jewelry? Will the bookcase hold the secrets to the past? If it does, will Cate be able to decipher the clues on its shelves? Or is there something more sinister at work in Dunhaven Castle?
Find out if Cate has what it takes to solve the newest mysteries at Dunhaven Castle in Holiday Heist at Dunhaven Castle, book three of the riveting cozy mystery series Cate Kensie Mysteries.
Nellie H. Steele lives in the South Hills of Pittsburgh with her family and her many fur-babies. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys teaching Statistics at a local university or watching her dogs and cats play in the yard.
Nellie is the author of the Cate Kensie Mystery Series, a cozy mystery series following the adventures of Dr. Catherine Kensie, a history professor turned Scottish Countess, and her beloved dog, Riley, as they navigate their new lives in their quirky Scottish highlands castle, solving mysteries along the way! She is the creator of the Shadow Slayers series, a suspenseful series with a supernatural twist! Follow the Shadow Slayers through time as they fight to banish darkness from the world. Nellie also writes an adventure series, Maggie Edwards Adventures. Follow Maggie Edwards as she travels the world solving mysteries and finding unique treasures!
A Litter of Bones A DCI Jack Logan Novel #1 JD Kirk
Zertex Crime, April 2019
There are eight books in the series – and to date I have read four of them. I bought them for my Kindle as they were all reasonably priced ( Book 8 is due out in a few weeks) and all are around 300 pages in length.
I’ve read the first four to date….and really enjoyed them all…. They are set in Scotland, in and around Fort William and Inverness. I’m originally from Scotland and relatively familiar with the area so that struck a chord with me. Jack Logan is a great character. He’s a Detective Chief Inspector, big, brawny and not to be trifled with. He was married and he has a daughter… but his work has taken precedence at the cost of his marriage.
A Litter of Bones is the first book in the series.
When a young boy goes missing in the Scottish Highlands DCI Logan is sent to take the lead in the case due to the fact that he’d recently had success in apprehending and prosecuting a man who’d kidnapped and killed several children. But when similarities to the previous missing children’s cases surface, it isn’t long before the local press begin to question whether DCI Logan had arrested and charged the wrong man.
Logan has his own misgivings but pushes his colleagues to their limit determined to find the missing boy alive. When one of his Detectives is attacked while checking out an abandoned house and forensics later find indications that the missing boy was indeed being held there…the tension quickly escalates, as hopes of finding the missing boy alive slowly diminish.
I enjoyed getting to know DCI Logan and the local detectives and police. The race to catch the kidnapper kept me eagerly turning pages. I highly recommend this book and the next three in the series… JD Kirk is the pen name of Barry Hutchison who has written a number of children’s books and as he puts it ‘is meantime enjoying murdering people’ in this mystery series.
Check them out! You’ll be glad you did!
Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, September 2020.
Death of an Honest Man A Hamish Macbeth Mystery #33 M.C. Beaton
Grand Central Publishing, February 2018
All the familiar characters and nuances of the Hamish Macbeth mysteries are present in this novel. That does not diminish the charm of the tale, which begins with a new arrival in the Scottish sergeant’s patch, one Paul English. The newcomer prides himself for stating honest observations, which are really insults. For instance, telling an overweight woman she’s fat, or the minister his sermons are boring. And, of course, there’s always Chief Inspector Blair and his hatred for Macbeth, and his constant attempts to take credit for crimes Macbeth solves.
Well, English’s mouth actually results in his misfortune, and he is murdered. With any number of potential suspects, Macbeth has his work cut out for him. A couple of subplots round out the novel: first is Macbeth’s fixation on his wild cat who apparently is no longer with him, and he finds and nurtures another in the hope that it is his lost pet; and then there is the constant loss of his assistants to the food industry.
The addition of a new novel to this long-running series is always a joy to read and “Honest Man” is good fun, and is recommended.
Quiet Neighbors Catriona McPherson
Midnight Ink, April 2016
We all live in neighborhoods, some loud and raucous, some quiet and peaceful. In either case, we may know a good deal about those who live in those sheltering houses, and we may not. We might also be surprised to learn somethings good or not so good about our neighbors.
Neighborhoods are a collective façade behind which we often protect our privacy, letting others make assumptions without question until something upsets the even and normal fabric.
People have secrets and this is a novel of revelation, of history and secrets and the results of false assumptions. In some neighborhoods, or tiny towns, such as this one on the Scottish coast, the insertion of a new force, such as a stranger, can be benign or upsetting.
London librarian Jude comes on vacation with her husband to this tiny town of bookshops, fabric stores and teashops. It’s a quiet Scottish town and Jude discovers an odd bookstore nestled amongst other quirky shops. Lowland Glen Books turns out to be a treasure trove of used books. But the place is, to say the least, not well organized. But the store and its proprietor offer some quirky calm in the midst of Jude’s deteriorating life and marriage.
Weeks later, she needs a place to go to ground in a hurry and for unfathomable reasons, the town around Lowland Books rises in her memory and there she goes to hide. The mystery of her need to hide is one of the many mysteries so carefully unraveled as this story progresses. She needs shelter and a job wouldn’t be amiss, either. When the bookstore owner, possessor of his own secrets, offers her the job reorganizing the bookstore, and a roof over her head, the situation seems heaven-sent.
Naturally, in a small community like this, Jude discovers some people with secrets of their own and when a young pregnant woman, claiming a relationship with the bookstore owner, shows up, more yarn begins to unravel.
The revelations, the discoveries, intertwined with startling personality bends, are masterfully handled, retaining and enhancing wide-ranging literary comment, examination of some life styles and amazement as the sometimes slyly revealed truths come to the fore. Any reader who loves mystery, countervailing personal forces and a persistent, forward-moving narrative, will find this novel interesting and difficult to put down.
Judgment of Murder A Rex Graves Mystery #8 C.S. Challinor
Midnight Ink, November 2016
For a mystery, this British entry into the field is so low key that I think even I might have a more exciting life. Scottish barrister Rex Graves’ old mentor, Lord Murgatroyd–also known as Judge Murder, has passed away. Phoebe, his daughter, thinks he may have been murdered, although the evidence is flimsy. An unlocked window? A not very valuable stamp album gone missing? None of it seems very convincing, but Rex travels from Edinburgh to Canterbury upon her invitation to see what he makes of the situation.
Not much, as it turns out. But he makes a few phone calls when he gets back to Edinburgh, and oddly enough, is put in danger by a man the judge had put in prison, but who has been released.
Meanwhile, a schoolgirl from the area has been kidnapped and is feared dead. It happened not far from the judge’s house, and is a subplot that runs through the story. Actually, it’s the most interesting part, as the characters in this story did not intrigue me, nor were they particularly sympathetic. The most interesting is Rex’s pal Alistair, who also has the most action. Turns out the judge’s daughter is a tippler and a would-be man eater, not that that sort of thing works on a man like Rex.
The dialogue seemed mundane to me, and old-fashioned in the extreme for people who carry mobile phones and drive a Jaguar, but it does get the job done. In the climax, all the ends are tied, the plot holes explained, and everyone gets their due.
Reviewed by Carol Crigger, April 2018.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder, Four Furlongs and Hometown Homicide.
A Strange Scottish Shore Emmeline Truelove Series #2 Juliana Gray
Berkley Trade Paperback, September 2017
If you’re a fan of historical fiction, especially if the story veers toward the mythical and takes place on one of Great Britain’s coasts, you’ve probably heard of selkies, a seal-like creature that comes ashore, sheds its skin and lives like a human. At least for a while, until the sea calls it back.
A Strange Scottish Shore opens when a wall in an ancient Scottish castle is breached and a box is found which contains a suit of peculiar texture. The year is 1906, and while the suit seems to be of a modern rubberized fabric, researchers Maximilian Haywood and his assistant, Emmeline Truelove, ascertain it is the skin of a selkie who in ancient times came ashore from the sea and married the first laird.
But then weird things begin happening. People appear and disappear. Emmeline’s “special” friend Lord Silverton disappears one night. A strange, evil seeming young man appears, and Emmeline meets and speaks with an oddly familiar young woman who gives her a warning. Who are these people? What do they want? Where do they come from, and where do they go so suddenly? It’s a mystery that will take Max, Emmeline, and Silverton from the present, into the past as well as into the future, with danger dogging their steps at every turn.
The unique story premise is intriguing, to be sure. The characters, for the most part, are strong. The dialogue seemed a bit wordy to me, and sometimes, a bit superfluous. A reader will find many twists and turns, and effortlessly, which is the best way, learn a bit about old Scottish castles, the lives of our ancestors, and even the myths they believed in. The ending holds a bit of a surprise, and I think you’ll find it all to the good. As to where the selkie skin (or suit) came from, and to whom it belonged, well, you’ll just have to read the story to find out.
Reviewed by Carol Crigger, January 2018.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder, Four Furlongs and Hometown Homicide.