Source: Review Copy
Publication: 2 Nov 2017 from Orion
Just before her wedding day, Morven Murray, queen of daytime TV, is found murdered. All eyes are on her sister Anna, who was heard arguing with her hours before she was killed.
On the other side of Inverness, police informant Kevin Ramsay is killed in a gangland-style execution. But what exactly did he know?
As ex-Met Detective Inspector Lukas Mahler digs deeper into both cases, he discovers that Morven’s life was closer to the Inverness underworld than anyone imagined. Caught in a deadly game of cat and mouse, is Lukas hunting one killer, or two?
Oh, I do like it when I discover a new series of detective fiction/police procedurals set in Scotland. This one is set in the city of Inverness and it’s good to see the Highland town represented as it is, a splendid, modern city set within fabulous surroundings. Though the book is set in the Highlands, the opening sequence takes place in Glasgow where a young woman, Janis Miller, falls from a balcony to her death at a student party. How this relates to the crimes that follow is for our detective to discover.
Inspector Lukas Mahler is an interesting protagonist. Lukas has just returned from working in the Met in London in order to look after his mentally unstable mother whose health is not good. He arrives back in Inverness fresh from attending the funeral of Raj, a fellow policeman and a friend, so between that and being the only one available to care for his mother, it is perhaps not surprising that he’s just a wee bit grumpy.
The relationship between him and his mother, whilst clearly loving, also clearly has quite a backstory and I was intrigued to know much more of that story than this first book reveals. What is clear though is that Lukas is a loner who carries some fears and guilt with him, so he has his own troubles to bear.
No sooner has he landed in Inverness than his boss puts him in charge of not one, but two murder enquiries. Police informant Kevin Ramsey has been deliberately run over and well known TV presenter, Morven Murray, has been savagely murdered a hotel on the eve of her wedding. Anna Murray, Morven’s sister has just arrived from San Diego, where she works as a historian.
Lukas is somewhat resented by his team after being ‘parachuted in’ to the head up the murders and is soon running himself into the ground looking for motives as the tabloids make hay with the ‘death of a daytime glamour queen’ headlines.
Anna and Lukas have more in common than they at first realise and there’s a spark there that certainly has the scope to develop further. I loved, too, DS Ian Fergie, a man whose car you can smell coming off the pages, filled as it is with debris from various fast food outlets. Scruffy, disorganised and dishevelled, Fergie is the opposite of Lukas, but somehow the pair work well together.
As another man goes missing and is then found murdered, Lukas is torn between seeing to his mother’s needs and trying to spend all the time he can tracking down the culprit(s).
Margaret Kirk writes very well and this book flows nicely. Her concentration on character and relationships pays off in spades as we warm to her likeable characters and want to know more and her descriptions are vivid and authentic.
The plot dances off in different directions so that, like Lukas, you feel you are chasing shadows until the final denouement arrives.
A really strong debut novel from a writer I will want to hear more from.
About Margaret Kirk
Margaret Morton Kirk is a writer living and working in her home town of Inverness. She has written a number of short stories, one of which, ‘Still Life’, was runner-up in the ‘Bloody Scotland’ short story competition in 2015. It was later adapted for radio and broadcast on Radio 4 as part of its ‘Scottish Shorts’ series.
‘The Seal Singers’, a semi-mythic tale set in Orkney, won third prize in the 2016 Mslexia short story competition. And ‘Coming Home’, a chilling insight into one family’s fragmented past, was published in the Tales from Elsewhere anthology.
Shadow Man is her debut novel.
You can follow Margaret on @HighlandWriter