Funeral Note by Quintin Jardine is the 22nd book in the long running "Bob Skinner" series. During the series, which first saw the light of day in 1993, Bob Skinner has risen from senior policeman to extremely senior policeman. Since he hit the heights of Chief Constable of a police force that covers the same ground as, but isn't (as the author makes clear in his foreword), Lothian and Borders Police, the recurring question is how the readers' interest can be maintained in a policemen whose rank would in the real world make him more an administrator and politician than a detective actually doing the things Bob Skinner has been so entertainingly good at over the previous 20 books.
Skinner novels have usually been ensemble pieces, in which the story is told in the third person from a shifting perspective that moves around a considerable cast of characters. In at least one book in the series, Skinner himself only appeared as a peripheral character until late in the story. That all changed with the previous book, "Grievous Angel", written from the first person perspective of Bob Skinner, and largely in flashback to 15 years earlier.
"Funeral Note" takes yet another approach, which is to present each short chapter in the developing storyline as a first person account written by one of the many characters we've only previously seen from an external third person perspective. The plot revolves around the discovery of an unidentified, and apparently unidentifiable, body after a tip off, and the quite separate realisation that a senior member of the force is corrupt. These strands intertwine as the story is steadily built up, collage like, from the ever changing perspectives of the participants, including Bob Skinner: whose private life is again coming under pressure as his deeply held views conflict with his wife's political ambitions.
This all works very well indeed, and the story moves forward in a highly engaging way. The best Skinner yet? Until the very end, yes it is. Sadly the end, which on the plus side is as climactic and action packed as Skinner fans will have come to expect, has the feeling of an author simply stopping a few pages too early. This is doubtless intended to create a cliffhanger that will have readers keen to find out what really happened at the beginning of the next book. And in some ways it succeeds: but this a device that neither Bob Skinner nor Quintin Jardine need, and one which will leave many readers feeling just a little short changed. Add in the suspicion that there has been some constructive misdirection of the reader about just what exactly does happen at the end, and you end up with an excellent novel with a slightly disappointing conclusion.