Source: Review copy
Publication: 18 January 2019 from Twa Corbies Publishing
Cross-border relations between Westminster and Holyrood are tense over nuclear policy as journalist Willie Morton investigates the death of anti-nuclear activist Angus McBain and begins to suspect he was killed for what he knew.
Was there UK Government collusion in the murder of McBain and conspiracy over illegal radioactive convoys heading to Dounreay? And can Morton keep clear of the sinister, deadly forces in headlong pursuit from Loch Ness to Arisaig and Oban, and across the treacherous Sound of Kerrera in the dark…? Trapped in a remote distillery at Bridge of Orchy, as bullets dent the copper stills, surely Morton’s time is up…?
A Scottish political thriller is always going to be a draw for me and so when I was offered the opportunity to read Deadly Secrecy by Andrew Scott, I jumped at the chance.
As I began reading I had the feeling that some of this story was familiar and it soon dawned on me that the core of this story is drawn from a real life mystery; that of Scottish lawyer, anti-nuclear activist and prominent SNP member Willie McRae.
McRae was found unconscious in his crashed car off the A87 near Invergarry on 6 April, 1985. He died after being taken to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness, where it was found that the cause of death had been a gunshot wound to the head. This case, officially recorded as suicide, had a number of bizarre aspects which led many to claim that he was murdered and to speculate at length about the reasons why that may have been the case. I won’t go into the theories here, suffice it so say that many thought that McRae had been under surveillance from MI5 at the time.
Now Deadly Secrecy is a work of fiction, but it’s not hard to find the points where inspiration has been drawn from real life events and that makes this book especially interesting from a political perspective.
Willie Morton is the central protagonist. An Edinburgh based freelance journalist, he begins investigating the strange death of Angus McBain, an anti-nuclear activist in the Scottish Highlands. The death appears suspicious, but no Fatal Accident Inquiry is called and his closest relative won’t press for one. Willie ploughs on regardless, seeing an unexplained mystery that just doesn’t feel right. Soon it becomes clear that there are people who are not keen on Willie’s investigation and he finds that some of them are more than willing to put something rather worse than a spoke in his wheels.
Travelling across the Scottish landscape, Morton is trailed by Daniel McGinlay, a shadowy figure with ties to the British Government that he doesn’t want anyone to know about.
As Willie pursues his quest, he will come up against some fierce opposition and his suspicions about government collusion in McBain’s death are reinforced as he has to flee across the Highlands and Islands from sinister forces determined that their deadly convoys will make it to Douneray unannounced.
Soon it is his life that is at stake. A deadly conspiracy is afoot and those behind it are not prepared to let one down at heel journalist stand in the way of the success of their operation.
In a fast paced read, Scott ramps up the excitement, with lots of action, plenty of thrills and a beezer of a conspiracy theory to pull the whole story together.
Verdict: Set in the turbulent world of contemporary British politics and a nascent Scottish nation, this is a thriller that captures the political upheaval of today. Whether you’re YES or NO, you’ll find something to keep your attention in this contemporary Scottish thriller.
Andrew Scott is a novelist, poet and non-fiction book writer (as Andrew Murray Scott). A former freelance journalist and press officer who worked for more than ten years for politicians at Westminster and Holyrood, he has had several brushes with ‘spooks’. In 1982, his then 22 year old girlfriend was recruited by MI6. He visited her in Geneva but she’d been advised by her ‘handler’ to drop him. In 1990, while writing a non-fiction book titled Britain’s Secret War: Tartan Terrorism and the Anglo-American State, which investigated the murky world of nationalist extremists and MI5 spooks and agent-provocateurs, he had several brief encounters with MI5 employees and support agents in Scotland.