Source: Purchased copy
Publication: 8th April 2019 from Harvill Secker
Seven days. Four deaths. One chance to catch a killer.
Sixteen-year-old Robert arrives home late. Without a word to his dad, he goes up to his bedroom. Robert is never seen alive again.
A body is soon found on the coast of the Scottish Highlands. Detective Inspector Monica Kennedy stands by the victim in this starkly beautiful and remote landscape. Instinct tells her the case won’t begin and end with this one death.
Meanwhile, Inverness-based social worker Michael Bach is worried about one of his clients whose last correspondence was a single ambiguous text message; Nichol Morgan has been missing for seven days.
As Monica is faced with catching a murderer who has been meticulously watching and waiting, Michael keeps searching for Nichol, desperate to find him before the killer claims another victim.
I bought my copy of From The Shadows at an Aye Write event (how I miss you!) last year and never got round to reading it, so when I heard that Gareth Halliday’s second book was coming out, I thought I had better get a move on!
From the Shadows introduces D.I. Monica Kennedy, a woman whose height is her most striking feature and who is conscious enough of that enough to wear the wrong shoe size because asking for Size 10’s would be just one step too far. A single mother to Lucy, she relies on her own mother, a bit of a true crime fanatic, much to Monica’s dismay, to take care of her granddaughter while Monica works. And work she does, long hours where she forgets everything for the job. She’s prepared to go off piste when it suits her and this risk –taking aspect is something that is going to get her into trouble…as a reader you can feel it.
Halliday drops hints about Monica’s past which has led to gossip about her among her colleagues, and the father of her daughter is a mystery which I imagine will be returned to in future books.
A teenage boy goes disappears from his home after being on a night out. Later his body is found, horribly staged in an isolated setting in the Gairloch. G.R. Halliday’s locations here are spot on and his Wester Ross setting with all its darkness and dampness, peat bogs and wild streams is a perfect locus for set a series of macabre serial killings. I cannot fault his sense of place.
Monica and her team investigate and before they have a chance to develop solid leads, another young teenage boy goes missing from home and later turns up in another remote location, similarly butchered. Both lads have very clearly been killed by the same killer. At the same time, Nichol, a third young man has gone missing and his social worker, Michael Bach is worried that will meet the same fate and is looking for him. Michael’s somewhat burnt out from years of dealing with clients who won’t be helped or who the system won’t let him help and this time he really wants to see if he can make a difference to this young boy’s life.
The novel shows us three different perspectives: Monica’s, Michael Bach’s and that of the unnamed ‘Watcher’ whom we take as our antagonist. Monica enlists the help of Michael Bach and in doing so cuts a few procedural corners that would, were she to be found out, lead her into hot water.
Monica Kennedy’s new team member is the straight laced Sergeant Crawford and he makes for an interesting foil. I am looking forward to seeing how these two, quite different, people relate to each other as the series progresses.
From the Shadows is quite a gory book – not something I mind at all, just be aware that this is an author who likes his serial killers to be on the inventive side. Though the pacing overall is good, the book does have a bit of a middle ‘dip’ then hots up again towards the denouement.
Speaking of the denouement, I was a little irked that the author left a couple of pretty big questions unanswered. One I can understand, as it may well play into succeeding books, but the second leaves me wondering if there is to be a return to this crime somewhere ahead?
Verdict: A fantastic sense of place with the choice of setting ideal for a series of ritualistic killings (sorry Scottish Tourist Board). Interesting protagonists and a better than decent start to an almost Scandi style police procedural series.
G.R. Halliday was born in Edinburgh and grew up near Stirling in Scotland. He spent his childhood obsessing over the unexplained mysteries his father investigated, which has proved excellent inspiration for From the Shadows. The book was shortlisted for the McIlvanney Debut Prize 2019. G.R. Halliday now lives in the rural Highlands outside of Inverness, where he is able to pursue his favourite pastimes of mountain climbing and swimming in the sea, before returning home to his band of semi-feral cats.