Even the coldest case will eventually crack. November 1993. Scotland is in the grip of the coldest winter in living memory and the Lake of Menteith is frozen over. A young man and woman walk across the ice to the historic island of Inchmahome which lies in the middle of the lake. Only the man comes back. In the spring, as staff prepare the abbey ruins for summer visitors, they discover the unidentifiable remains of the body of a girl, her skull violently crushed.
Twenty years later, present day. Retired detective Alan Narey is still haunted by the unsolved crime. Desperate to relieve her father’s conscience DS Rachel Narey returns to the Lake of Menteith and unofficially reopens the cold case. With the help of police photographer Tony Winter, Rachel discovers that the one man her father had always suspected was the killer has recently died. Risking her job and reputation, Narey prepares a dangerous gambit to uncover the killer’s identity – little knowing who that truly is. Despite the freezing temperatures the ice cold case begins to thaw, and with it a tide of secrets long frozen in time are suddenly and shockingly unleashed.
A little over a year ago I read Craig Robertson’s debut thriller Random, a shocking book full of brutal slayings and an imaginative first person narrative told by the serial killer – a magnificent debut set on the streets of Glasgow. I didn’t have the pleasure – if that’s the correct vocabulary to use when dealing with serial killers – of reading his second book Snapshot but having now finished his third book – Cold Grave – I’ll have to make time and read it!
Cold Grave surprised me somewhat, it didn’t read like Random and not what I had expected at all, not even close to be honest. Robertson has written a totally different book this time around, the styles are different and the book feels a lot more mature, more heartfelt.
The early part of the book is infectious, the author introducing the reader to the atmospheric island of Inchmahome in Scotland, an island where the discovery of a female body – and her murder – in the early nineties went unsolved. DS Rachel Nearly, desperate to give her father – who initially investigated the murder – peace in his retirement, is determined to solve the cold case no matter the cost to either her personal life or career.
Robertson vividly captures the sights and sounds of Inchmahome both past and present, so much so I now want to visit the island and see it for myself, and the island is without question a magnificent focal point for any murder. With a huge lake defending the island the author grabbed my attention from the very first page as we follow the victim’s final walk – across a frozen lake – to her inevitable death. I could imagine a priory, now in ruins, full of hustle and bustle in its prime and a boat dock booming with people eager to land on the island. The imagination is a wonderful thing and Robertson gives it a helping hand and I simply lost myself in the harsh winter weather on this isolated and historical mass of land.
The story is well thought out and I really enjoyed how the author wrapped things up, it all made sense and there were a few unexpected twists and turns that took me by surprise towards the end of the book. A very fluent and quick read the book moves at a frenetic pace helped in part by some intelligent local Scottish dialogue, colourful characters and humorous passages I hadn’t expected, passages that made me laugh out loud on numerous occasions. The gritty and dogged streets of Glasgow come alive, as do the local pubs, eateries and football rivalry’s found in abundance in a footballing city no stranger to conflict.
But for me, moving away from an impressive crime and police procedural, it was the relationship between Rachel Neary and her father Alan that struck a chord with me. With Alan suffering from Alzheimer’s Robertson deals with his illness with a sensitivity I hadn’t anticipated or expected in a book of this genre. The scenes are handled with understanding, sadness and the unshakable devotion of a loving daughter is clear for all to see and read. It highlights Neary’s undeniable love and affection for her father and the internal battle she faces daily on whether to look after her father herself or leave him in a care home. The chapters dealing with Alzheimer’s were full of emotion and on a couple occasions I had a small lump in my throat, something I only get when I can relate to a character or have a vested interest in their story.
Cold Grave is powerful and resolute and at times sensitive and compassionate – a heady mix. With a well thought out plot and intelligent narrative, Robertson has delivered another smash placing Glasgow firmly on the gritty map. Sit back, open a can of Irn-Bru and gorge on the local dialects, you won’t be sorry!
441 Pages · ISBN-10: 0857204165 · ISBN-13: 978-0857204165