The second in the DI Marjory Fleming series, like the first (Cold in the Earth), provides an authentic, detailed picture of rural life in Galloway, Scotland – against the background of a “classic” murder mystery. In a dramatic opening, the local three-person lifeboat sets out in a storm, but after the crew deal with the ship in distress and are returning home, the boat misses the harbour and sails onto some treacherous rocks, with devastating consequences. The main focus of the book is Marjory’s investigation of the deaths, once it becomes apparent that the wreck was not an accident.
The small community is slowly coming to terms with the previous year’s foot-and-mouth epidemic, affecting the usually no-nonsense Marjory both because her farmer husband, Bill, has to get his life and business back on track, and because in her role as a police officer who carried out the unpopular government policy, her teenage daughter Cat is being ostracised at school. These family dynamics are knitted into the plot, as well as those of Marjory and her police colleagues, not least concerning a new recruit who is, horror of horrors, English – and cocky with it. A final running theme is the presence of Laura, a major character in the previous novel but here limited to making contributions when Marjory needs them, rather than participating in events in her own right. Laura is a psychologist, so not only provides Marjory with some brief profiles of the possible perpetrator, but also helps mend relations between mother and rebel daughter.
I enjoyed this novel because it is well-constructed and provides an absorbing account of an isolated community and individuals within it, complete with spiteful gossips, drug dealers, handsome doctors and endless supplies of rock cakes. There is a hard-headedness that prevents the whole becoming twee, even though quite a few salient details are glossed over. In the end, the mystery is solved by solid police work, though there is a somewhat “rabbit out of the hat” element to it. If the police had made more use of technology in, for example, tracing car number plates or doing some elementary background checks on the internet, the “discrepancy” that Marjory notices on about page 350 of a 390-page book, which changes the focus of the investigation, might well have provided the crucial lead much earlier on. Nevertheless, this second Marjory Fleming novel is a pleasant read, particularly in the depictions in brief of its cast of characters, and with plenty of threads and elements to keep the reader looking forward to the next installment.
I bought my copy of this book.
My review of the first in this series, Cold in the Earth.
Books from Scotland: about the author and her books.