A grisly murder in a sleepy Scottish Borders village opens this debut novel by Janet O’Kane. The body is discovered by a relative newcomer to the village, who has joined the local surgery as a GP.
Doctor Moreland is the central character and the novel, written in the third person, is told from her point of view. However, it is a distant, almost clinical POV, and given that she survives two attempts on her life, is involved in three suspicious deaths, and is just starting a relationship, I would like to have seen some more intimate third person perspective apart from her doubts about her prospective boyfriend.
There is a good range of characters, with many of the supporting ones well portrayed, revealing more about them gradually as the novel progresses. The atmosphere of a small village is well created through the use of dialogue and characterisation.
The plot is not just a whodunit but manages to weave different sub-plots neatly into the main story without being distracting and there are some interesting red herrings and twists. The beginning is paced more slowly to set context, and pauses slightly at times with some minor insignificant detail, but as more is revealed later in the book, the pace picks up considerably, and through a number of red herrings and twists, builds up to an unexpected climax.
Strengths of this book were characterisation, thoughtful plot (and sub-plots), and the way the story played out. A lot of the story was conveyed through dialogue and was well-written and credible. When the immediate action happened it was very good. There were few literal errors.
Recommended to anyone who likes a mystery/crime novel that focuses on thinking, and one that—in its favour—isn’t full of unnecessary gore. It’s a good first novel.