Source: Review copy
Publication: 8th March 2018 from Contraband
My husband is trying to kill me: a new client gets straight to the point. This is a whole new ball game for Maggie Laird, who is trying to rebuild her late husband’s detective agency and clear his name. Her partner, Big Wilma, sees the case as a non-starter, but Maggie is drawn in. With her client s life on the line, Maggie must get to the ugly truth that lies behind Aberdeen’s closed doors. But who knows what really goes on between husbands and wives? And will the agency s reputation and Maggie and Wilma’s friendship remain intact?
From the moment that I started this book I knew that Wilma and Maggie were for me. An unlikely pairing that works really well because they come from different backgrounds, have very different perspectives but really come together when as women they are faced with all kinds of adversity, whether domestic or work related.
Maggie is the reserved one, struggling to maintain a business and aiming to clear her dead husband’s name. Her children are distant and she feels she’s not quite keeping a grip on anything. Wilma, on the other hand, is feisty and loud and has a brilliant sense of humour. These are two very well fleshed out characters, initially thrown together by misfortune and who have subsequently formed a growing and honest friendship.
MacLeary has a great ear for dialogue and her witty and often gritty prose evokes a strong sense of place and an authenticity that really makes this book sing. Neither is she at all afraid of darkness or exploring what can go on behind closed doors. Indeed, more than anything, what comes through in this book are the chasms that can exist between men and women and the desperate lengths that people will go to just to feel free. It’s not often you get such strong advocacy of and for women in the context of a crime novel but that’s what makes this such an engrossing read.
As Maggie and Wilma work bloody hard to keep their agency afloat they are determined to keep the business profitable; to grow their corporate clients and not to allow their motivation to be swayed by walk-in clients. But Maggie is a sucker for a sob story and the more she tries to say no, the further in she gets drawn.
As both Maggie and Wilma face both business and personal issues that threaten to drive them apart, MacLeary invites other well drawn characters to complicate matters and lead the reader astray.
This book is a joy. Mainly because the writing is so good, but also because it is so good to read about older women protagonists (though younger than me, sadly).The plotting is excellent and the storyline incredibly contemporary in this #MeToo era.
Burnout is a clever and highly enjoyable read and Maggie and Wilma have taken a piece of my heart. I can’t wait to read what they will get up to next.
About Claire MacLeary
Claire MacLeary lived for many years in Aberdeen and St Andrews, but describes herself as “a feisty Glaswegian with a full life to draw on”. Following a career in business, she gained an MLitt with Distinction from the University of Dundee and her short stories have been published in various magazines and anthologies. She has appeared at Granite Noir, Noir at the Bar and other literary events. Claire’s debut novel, Cross Purpose, was longlisted for the prestigious McIlvanney Prize, Scottish Crime Book of the Year Award 2017.
Follow Claire on @ClaireMacLeary
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