Detective Andy Green is surprised to receive a package containing £100,000 from a beautiful woman. Later, he is concerned to find out that a man answering his description in a car very similar to his own has been murdered. In turn, the murder appears to be connected to the purchase of a Hebridean island off the Isle of Skye by a Sicilian sculptor, who has a collection of rather dodgy friends. Green, along with his boss, Bob Burns, and Bob's girlfriend, forensic scientist Julie Bryson, decide to pay the new owner of the island a visit. Before they know it, they are embroiled in a battle of wits against both the Sicilians and the local inhabitants, who are eager to make as much money as they can out of the newcomers. How come no-one appears to have heard of this so-called famous Sicilian sculptor? And what is the attraction of a remote Hebridean island?
Peter Kerr is not an author I am familiar with. However, when I saw that this book was based on a Hebridean island, I knew I had to read it. Having spend many holidays as a child in the Hebrides, I have very fond memories. Peter Kerr is apparently well known for his travel writing, particularly because he has spent some years in Spain.
Characterisation is perhaps not Peter Kerr's strong point. Bob Burns is a short-tempered detective, who manages to solve crimes by coincidence as much as anything else. He is divorced, but is currently in a new relationship with forensic scientist Julie Bryson. That is about all we really find out about Bob. This is the second in the series, so it may be that Bob's character was better described in the first book; however, a little more information would have made me far more inclined to root for Bob. As it is, I didn't have particularly strong feelings for him.
I had stronger feelings for Julie Bryson - I couldn't stand her. She is intelligent and gorgeous and apparently able to do her job without answering to anyone else. Again, little is given away about her character, but what was there, I didn't like. She apparently speaks about ten different languages; pretty good going for a scientist. Andy Green is perhaps a bit more of a rounded character. He really has no idea of what he is doing, yet manages to fall on his feet each time. Most importantly, his antics made me laugh, which just about saved this book from being complete rubbish. To be fair, all of the characters are supposed to be caricatures - unfortunately, apart from Andy, the humour falls a little flat.
The story is quite complicated. It initially begins in three different places, including Sicily, New York and Scotland. When everyone eventually converges on the Hebridean island of Muckle Floggit, it does start to get a little confusing. This is not helped by the fact that in a single chapter, the location and the people involved can change several times. I found myself switching off at times because it was just getting too complicated and the story wasn't interesting enough to keep me concentrating.
Peter Kerr obviously had a lot of fun with the different accents. There was plenty of Scottish - "Michtie me!", Noo York American - "a real foxy broad!", Sicilian - "Please-a to forgive" and even a bit of Irish thrown in for good luck - "it is an' all, to be sure!". Although it was all highly exaggerated, I did think it was quite well done - I know myself that it can be very difficult to put an accent into the written word.
I enjoyed reading about the location. I went on holiday to Skye last year and we visited the Isle of Raasay - I suspect that Muckle Floggit may be based on Raasay. Whether this is true or not, it certainly made it much easier for me to visualise the sights on the island, while bringing back some happy memories at the same time.
The book is supposed to be funny - it is certainly witty enough, although I only found myself laughing out loud once. This was right at the end of the book and involved Andy Green, a kilt (and no knickers!) and a para-glider - I will leave the rest to your imagination, but it was really quite well written. Had the rest of the book been this quality, it would have been much better than the average that I am giving it for the purpose of this review.
On the whole, the book was okay. I doubt I will ever read it again, but the odd show of promise means that I will probably give another of Peter Kerr's books a try in the future. If you like crime fiction and you're familiar with the Hebrides, you will probably like this. If not, don't bother.
The book is available from play.com for £5.49. Published by Accent Press Ltd, it has 320 pages. ISBN: 9781905170838