A Rattle of Bones by Douglas Skelton

There’s a neat juxtaposition of historic historical past and more moderen goings-on as A Rattle of Bones begins. The title harks again to outdated misdoings – the execution in 1752 of clan chief James Stewart, generally known as James of the Glen, for crimes he nearly actually didn’t commit. As a warning to his followers, his physique was left hanging to rot and decay, till solely his skeleton remained, bones rattling within the breeze.

Bounce to the fictional current and one other James Stewart is about to hit the headlines, and never for the primary time both. A decade in the past, the latter day James Stewart was imprisoned for the homicide of his homosexual lover, Murdo Maxwell, a person well-known for his work as a lawyer and as an environmental activist. Stewart was caught actually pink handed, bare and lined in his lover’s blood, however his mom has all the time protested his innocence – and now banners proclaiming the identical message have been draped from historic monuments across the Highlands, together with the chapel containing the stays of James of the Glen. Time for information company reporter Rebecca Connolly to open a brand new pocket book, sharpen her pencil and start her pursuit of the story.

The repercussions from The Blood is Nonetheless (reviewed here) are nonetheless being felt. Rebecca is sleeping badly, haunted by the reminiscences of what occured then. She can be being stalked by Martin Bailey, a person upset by what the reporter wrote about his son, who’s making no bones about the truth that he desires to do her hurt. In the meantime, within the background lurks the quietly menacing presence of crime matriarch Mo Burke – a lady who hates Rebecca with a vengeance for what the reporter did to her two sons. She has evil plans for Rebecca too, however is content material to bide her time and strike when the second is true. Revenge is a dish greatest served chilly, because the saying goes.

So a lot to ratchet up the stress earlier than we actually get to the meat of this story. The extra Rebecca digs into the background of Maxwell’s demise, the extra she is satisfied that James Stewart was arrange. However who may have executed such a factor, and why? There are some intelligent plot strands woven by means of A Rattle of Bones, a few of which have extra relevance than you might initially give them credit score for. Followers of the sequence can be delighted to see an entire raft of characters returning as soon as extra – together with Rebecca’s boss Elspeth, DCI Val Roach and naturally the dishy homosexual photographer Chaz.

Douglas Skelton is a dab hand at characterisation, and excellent new creations this time embrace sensible however lethal hoodlum Malky Reid, and Mona Maxwell, sister of the useless Murdo, who may simply have been handled as a mere apart however as an alternative is complicated and fascinating. Skelton’s consummate talent at creating sweeping, wildly sensible landscapes can be on present as soon as extra.

With its backdrop of Scottish independence and environmental points, A Rattle of Bones could be very a lot set within the current – however historical past, each historic and pretty current, has an enormous half to play right here. There’s a maelstrom of revenge, recrimination and salvation. At its coronary heart as all the time is Rebecca Connolly, attempting desperately to maintain on the straight and slim as she relentlessly pursues the reality. I like Rebecca; a reporter with integrity is a uncommon chook in our beloved crime fiction style however she’s a straight and true, if considerably haunted, journalist for whom the reality is paramount.

As soon as once more Douglas Skelton has created a cracking good learn. I recommend you seize a duplicate as quickly as you may.

Love Scottish crime fiction? Learn TF Muir’s take on tartan noir.


CFL Ranking: 5 Stars


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