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Glaswegian, Craig Campbell is an independent insurance investigator whose usual jobs involve insurance fraud so he's rather taken aback when he's approached by a woman asking him to investigate the death of her son who she believes was murdered, although it has been officially declared an accidental death. Not expecting to discover anything, Craig reluctantly agrees to investigate but as he begins to dig into the death of Rory Kilpatrick, he finds that there are some elements of the case which simply don't add up and after his office and flat are broken into, leaving his elderly neighbour fighting for her life, Craig's convinced that Rory was indeed murdered.. ... but murdered by whom and why?
The official explanation for Rory's death had been that he'd tripped and fallen onto a railway line whilst drunk and then been hit by a train but his mother tells Craig that her son was teetotal and this seems to be borne out by his friends and colleagues. Rory had worked for the City Council in the department dealing with the granting of contracts and Craig is beginning to think that this may have some bearing on Rory's death and what begins as a half-hearted investigation soon takes a very ugly turn and Craig finds himself in more danger than he's every experienced before.
Craig is a fairly ordinary young man in his late twenties: he enjoys his job, nights out with his friends and riding his pride and joy, a red Ducati motorbike. His friends tease him about the way he earns his living saying he's aiding and abetting insurance companies to 'get' the little man but once he begins to investigate Rory's death, Craig quickly realises he's way out of his depth. He's more used to dealing with people pretending to be unfit for work than with the vicious characters he suspects are behind this killing but he's dogged in his pursuit of justice for Rory and by the time Craig has some information for the police which make them take Rory's death seriously, it's become even more personal for him. Even though the police advise him to leave it to them, Craig is on a mission to get to the truth.
I'd never heard of Sinclair Macleod before and his books aren't in print in the UK, although they are in the USA, so I wasn't anticipating much from this novel, despite the generally favourable reviews on Amazon but I actually enjoyed it more than I expected. The author is obviously a Glaswegian who loves his city as his descriptions of its closes, tenements and people are all overlaid with affection. Even though I've never been there, these descriptions made the city come alive for me and I expect that the descriptions of familiar landmarks and locations would be an added bonus for Scottish readers or those who know the city well.
Craig is such a likeable character and one that it's very easy to relate to. In many ways, he's every man and I have to say I found it very refreshing to read a book with a hero who isn't super handsome or always on top of the situation and in fact, for most of the book he's floundering around following red herrings (if you'll forgive the fishy pun).
In many ways this book was similar to the curate's egg; good in parts. From the first pages, the story engages the reader and although it isn't particularly fast paced, the author manages to inject enough tension into the story to keep me reading. I'm not sure whether this is Sinclair Macleod's first ever book but it's not a bad effort although the plot is fairly straightforward and sometimes the dialogue is a little stilted and overly informative. Some of the characters are a little stereotypical, too.
One annoyance for me was the unnecessary amount of information we get. I'm really not interested in whether Craig has muesli or porridge for breakfast and even though I'm a coffee lover myself, the constant references to what variety of bean he's using to make his coffee began to irritate after the first few times. Some of the conversations were rather unrealistic and over the top when it came to imparting information. For instance, one particularly aggressive character suddenly has a complete personality change when confronted by Craig and breaks down, giving our intrepid investigator chapter and verse. This didn't just happen once either, but on several occasions and it was just so unrealistic to think that someone who would be more likely to beat the living daylights out of him would suddenly give Craig a detailed account of everything he wante to know. To my mind it's a bit of a cop out by the author.
All that being said I enjoyed the story, despite its fairly pedestrian plot, and there's something of an unexpected twist towards the end. It certainly won't be winning any literary prizes but I've read worse. I will say, however, that the book would have benefitted from some more rigorous proof reading. This seems to be a continuing problem with Kindle books.
This is currently available in Kindle format for 81p and at that price, I don't really feel I have much cause for complaint. There are also two further cases for the reluctant detective which I'll probably buy as I'm curious enough to see how the author continues this series.