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by Lin Anderson
Hodder & Stoughton, August 2011
448 pages
19.99 GBP
ISBN: 0340992921

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Art student Jude Evans disappears while photographing a derelict Glasgow cinema. Her friend Liam turns to Rhona Macleod for help.

As they search Glasgow's many old cinemas for Jude, they discover a body walled up in a projection room. Not Jude, but the victim of an earlier crime, one of sexual sadism. Was Jude snatched maybe even murdered because she found the victim's body while photographing the cinema?

Rhona and Liam investigate, against a backdrop of personal tensions and professional tension for Rhona as an old colleague is threatened by Russian gangsters in an ongoing case, much of which unfolds off-screen.

The off-screen scenes create a tricky challenge to the reader's emotional involvement with the multiple storylines juggled with undoubted skill by Anderson. MacLeod's style alternates between painstaking minutia in describing the forensic investigation, and broad brushstrokes for more than one of the sub-plots.

Those invested in the fate of Michael MacNab at the hands of the Russians have to wait several chapters between each scene devoted to that fate scenes which are often no more than a page in length. By contrast, the mummified body is described in several scenes, each time with grisly precision. While this makes compelling reading and is more or less de rigueur for a crime novel of this kind the balance did feel skewed in favour of the dead over the living.

With such attention paid to the victim's corpse, readers might reasonably have expected more information about his life, in order to extract compassion if not empathy as the story unfolded. As it was, we learn little of his life to make us regret its premature end. The most effective scenes were those involving the likeable, competent Rhona and Liam, as Dr MacLeod tries to find ways to make room for her child (and her past) in her already busy present.

The old cinema settings are terrific. This is one novel where flashbacks could have worked to great effect, although the atmospheric descriptions did much to evoke the sense of time and place. A smaller cast, with more depth given to the humanising of secondary characters, would perhaps have made this story less complex, but more compelling.

Sarah Hilary is an award-winning short story author, currently working on a debut crime novel.

Reviewed by Sarah Hilary, January 2012

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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