In the spring of 1994, a body was found on the island of Inchmahome in the middle of the Lake of Menteith, following one of the coldest winters in living memory. The case was never solved yet nearly 20 years later DS Rachel Narey is determined to close this one cold case. It was her father’s; the one he never forgot and now he is losing his memory. Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s he has moved himself into a care home and she feels the one thing she can do for him now is solve his case. He won’t let it be the thing that lingers in his memory. Keeping the investigation off the books, she ropes in photographer Tony Winter and his uncle to work back through the evidence.
The wintery setting of Scotland in the grip of snow is something quite different to all the Scandinavian fiction you may be used to. Whilst snow is not uncommon it’s still a thing to be celebrated whilst being an annoyance. Something that no one is ever quite prepared for so I really enjoyed the setting which also moves away from urban Glasgow to the more rural area around Callander and Stirling. It’s a little bit odd having a place associated with my childhood memories as a setting in a crime novel and I do wonder if it’s described enough for those not familiar (I imagine that’s most the people reading this).
It’s a much slower paced novel than its predecessor, Snapshot. There are some touching moments where Narey deals with her father’s illness and struggles with her reasons for digging around in the case. However I didn’t really care for any of the victims enough for it to be gripping. The main characters’ motives are pretty selfish and there isn’t really much time given to develop those that aren’t going to live beyond the pages of this instalment. I felt a little sorry for the girl from the lake, no one really wanted to know what her story was. It was a little too fact based for my liking and not enough emotion. I didn’t mind so much that Winter takes a backseat to Narey in the investigation, it’s probably a bit more realistic anyway. He does get a few chances to indulge in his morbid fascination with death photography but it doesn’t take over.
What Robertson excels at is his wonderfully descriptive portrayal of crime scenes. Seen through Winter’s photographer’s eye, both the details and the aesthetic qualities can be captured. This might make for some gory reading at times but it paints a vivid picture in your mind.
Cold Grave is the second book featuring Narey and Winter however it would work perfectly well as a standalone read. Published by Simon and Schuster, it’s currently available in trade paperback and ebook editions with the regular paperback due out in January. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.
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