Source: Review copy
Publication: 8th August 2019
When forensic scientist Rhona MacLeod returns to her roots on Scotland’s Isle of Skye, a chance encounter in the woods behind a nearby activities centre leads her to what seems to be a crime scene, but without a victim. Could this be linked to a group of army medics, who visited the centre while on leave from Afghanistan and can no longer be located on the island?
Enlisting the help of local tracker dog Blaze, Rhona starts searching for a connection.
Two days later a body is found at the base of the famous cliff known as Kilt Rock, face and identity obliterated by the fall, which leads Rhona to suspect the missing medics may be on the island for reasons other than relaxation. Furthermore, elements of the case suggests a link with an ongoing operation in Glasgow, which draws DS Michael McNab into the investigation.
As the island’s unforgiving conditions close in, Rhona must find out what really happened to the group in Afghanistan, as the consequences may be being played out in brutal killings on Skye . . .
A very happy publication day to Lin Anderson and her novel Time for the Dead. The Dr. Rhona MacLeod novels, of which this is the 14th, can be read as stand-alone books, but to get the whole backstory and to understand the relationships, the series is well worth a read in full.
In Time for the Dead, Rhona, a forensic pathologist, is stubbornly trying to deal with her personal fallout from the events in Sins of the Dead, which left her severely traumatised. So traumatised that she has been made to take time off and has gone back to Skye, where she spent much of her youth, to recuperate and to decide her future.
Despite others’ attempts, she has refused to go to Castlebrae, the Force’s excellent rehabilitation unit.
DS Michael McNab is attempting to keep an eye on her through timed daily Skype calls, but neither of them are fooling themselves into thinking that this is helpful. Rhona puts up with it because she has to stop McNab from turning up on her doorstep; for McNab, he at least knows Rhona is still with them.
One of the things I love about Lin Anderson’s novels is her vivid sense of place and the sheer beauty of Skye, with its rugged coastline and wintry dangers, is a brilliant character in this novel.
Rhona stays in a cottage belonging to Jamie McColl, a friend of some years standing and he introduces her to A.C.E Target Sports, an outdoor adventure facility – and their dog, Blaze.
Blaze is the best new character to inhabit a novel this year. Border Collie Detective, Munro Bagger, cheese connoisseur & black belt tennis ball chaser, he is a big brother to Laoch and an ace detective and rescue dog in his own right.
It is Blaze who first leads Rhona to the camp established by a group of 4 serving RAMC medics, on leave from their tour of duty in Helmand Province, and ostensibly on Skye to indulge in some rugged recreation. Rhona finds the signs of a possible crime scene but with no body, she is reluctant to trust her own instincts.
Together Rhona and Blaze investigate when a dead body is found washed up at the base of the famous cliff known as Kilt Rock, leading Rhona to wonder just why these medics are on Skye. Rhona has to stop doubting herself as her forensic capabilities are once more needed.
The appearance of Detective Alvis Olsen, from Stavanger is not entirely coincidental. On a walking holiday, he has decided to visit Skye, spurred on by a suggestion from Rhona’s assistant Chrissy, who will now join Rhona to assist in the forensic investigation of the body they have found.
In the meantime, DS McNab is investigating the case of a near fatal stabbing of a homeless drug addict and former military serviceman. McNab is on the trail of The Snowman, a notorious drug smuggler and soon it becomes clear that there are aspects of his case that have links to the dead body on Skye.
I really got caught up in this thrilling story. Anderson draws you in with the warmth and richness of her characters at the same time as she is leading you into the depths of a full and intricately plotted story that leaves you gasping at both its harshness and its topicality.
Anderson is a master story teller; her books are always incredibly well researched and her story lines resonate with her understanding of contemporary issues and the politics of expediency.
Verdict: A gripping story of resilience, of testing times and of the way we let down those whose lives are given in service to our country; Time for the Dead is Anderson at her best. Shout out too, to Blaze; a brilliant addition to the forensic team.
Lin Anderson is a Scottish novelist and screenwriter best known for her bestselling series featuring forensic scientist Dr Rhona MacLeod of which there are currently fourteen novels, four of which have been long listed for the Scottish Crime Book of the Year, with Follow the Dead being a 2018 finalist.
Lin is co-founder of the international crime writing festival Bloody Scotland which takes place annually in Stirling, Scotland, mid September.