Four university students – lads – stumble across a woman’s body in Fife, Scotland. Covered in blood after trying to save her, they end up being the prime suspects in the murder, but no evidence of actual murder is found, and no charge brought against them. That doesn’t stop suspicion following them, however.
Twenty five years later, a cold case review sets off a chain of events in which the original suspects start to end up dead. For Alex, one of the gang, it’s time to find out who murdered Rosie Duff before he ends up dead himself.
Set in Scotland, McDermid creates a very atmospheric and evocative picture of Fife, not surprising perhaps since she grew up there. From the snow-capped headstones to the class lines of locals versus university lads, the setting is a central part to the book – and one I enjoyed discovering.
When it came to the four lads, Rosie’s brothers, and the police, again, the author carved out the main characters very well. Whether it’s the lads culture, the bonds forged after multiple hangovers and college parties, the uneasy alliance between the different sides of the tracks, the timeless male-female dance between colleagues, McDermid’s characters each had an absorbing tapestry which drew in the reader.
It was in the plot, perhaps, that I had cause to falter. I had figured out the protagonist mid-way and didn’t quite connect with the other characters who came into the novel. And, in some aspects, the four lads were better drawn as lads than as adults…
However, as an account of how suspicion casts a long shadow, with multiple ripples across people’s lives, this is a fascinating narrative. The psychological impact on the main characters’ lives of forever being linked with a murder changes all of them and the course of their lives.
An interesting read.