Alanna Knight's "Quest for a Killer" is the sixth book in the series of crime thrillers featuring Rose McQuinn and is a highly enjoyable read set in late Victorian Edinburgh. Rose McQuinn is, as her card tells potential clients, a "Lady Investigator, Discretion Guaranteed". She lives alone in an ancient tower house perched on the edge of Holyrood Park beneath Arthur's Seat with only her slightly otherworldly deerhound Thane for company and protection.
Mrs McQuinn is a woman with a past. Her husband, a Scottish policeman turned Pinkerton agent, disappeared in Arizona four years previously and has long since been presumed dead. Rose McQuinn returned from the States to her native Edinburgh where her father, the renowned police detective Inspector Faro, had made his name. Here she tried to settle into a quieter life than the one she had known evading Apache raiding parties and pursuing outlaws with her husband.
When the circus comes to Edinburgh it is a break from the mundane for many of the city's citizens. But its arrival coincides with a series of strange events, all in a fairly small geographical area. A bank clerk is killed during a bungled robbery; two young women appear to commit suicide in identical circumstances at the same time in neighbouring tenements; and the husband of Mrs McQuinn's friend Elma Rice is found gravely ill after suffering a heart attack and injuring his head as he fell - or is the explanation more sinister?
Any novel set in Edinburgh inevitably recruits the city itself as a leading character, and Rose McQuinn's investigation is set against the background of the Edinburgh of 1899. This adds considerably to the enjoyment of the novel for anyone familiar with the city, and it is fun working out from the descriptions where the fictional Solomon's Tower in which Rose lives might have stood, and what stands there today. Meanwhile her descriptions of the tenements of the old town, or of shopping in Jenners on Princes Street with Elma Rice, all add colour and depth to the background. Meanwhile the story unfolds, leading you towards a conclusion which has elements you are intended to see coming, and others you most certainly don't.