Friday, 2 September 2016

Dead Wood by Chris Longmuir

Reviewer: Catriona Troth

What We Thought:

Dead Wood is the second in Chris Longmuir’s Dundee Crime series, and a winner of the Dundee International Book Prize.

Kara thinks it’s bad enough that two thugs are after her because her waster of a boyfriend owes their boss money. That is, until she escapes their clutches in the hands of the man who drags her into Templeton woods in the middle of the night.

What she finds there has strange echoes of a murder case from the 1970s. And for some of the police and social workers caught up in the case, it will drag them back into boyhood nightmares.

Inspired by a real life case from 1979, Dead Wood is a smart, scary and fast-paced police procedural. The novel makes effective use of multiple points of view to ramp up the drama. We see Kara, the young mother at the heart of the story, running scared from the thugs, from the killer, from the authorities. The drugs boss, who now has more than one reason to track Kara down. The police who, as past collides with present, may have reason to suspect one of their own. And peppered throughout, glimpses of the killer, whose warped mind serves as the will of Templeton Wood itself.

With so many characters at play, it would be easy for them to become two dimensional. But Longmuir creates strong individuals with their own quirks. Just when, like one of the young female coppers, we dare to feel sorry for the drugs boss Palmer, she finds a way to remind us how unpleasant he really is. The working girl Kara turns to for help is kind, but no ‘whore with a heart of gold.’

As all the best crime novels should be, Dead Wood is deeply rooted in its location. Even if we have never been to Dundee, we walk its streets along with the characters, explore its dark alleys, climb its hills, crawl through the dense undergrowth of Templeton Wood (and possibly feel the need for a good wash afterwards).

And excellent read for all lovers of Tartan Noir.

You’ll Enjoy This If You Love: Ian Rankin, Val McDermid, Gillian E Hamer

Avoid If You Dislike: Creepy serial killers

Perfect Accompaniment: A glass of good malt whiskey and a slice of Dundee cake

Genre: Crime

Available on Amazon

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