It's twenty years since Detective Chief Superintendent Bob Skinner first appeared in print in Quintin Jardine's "Skinner's Rules". An ever growing army of fans has followed him through twenty one books since, and watched his rise to the rank of Chief Constable. Many of those fans will be wondering what happened in the moments following the slightly unsatisfactory cliffhanger ending of the 22nd book, "Funeral Note". Wonder no longer, for "Pray for the Dying" picks up the story at the point the previous book leaves off.
Most readers will have worked out who was killed at the end of the previous book, but for any that haven't, the suspense comes to an end with the opening words of "Pray for the Dying". As a result Skinner finds himself even more centrally in the limelight than he was before. After a short period as Chief Constable of a police force that covers the same ground as, but isn't (as the author has made clear in previous books), Lothian and Borders Police, Skinner now finds himself with no option but to take on the job of Chief Constable of Strathclyde Police, the largest police force in Scotland. And his top priority is to find out who - spoiler alert if you've not worked it out already - killed his ruthlessly ambitious and widely disliked predecessor.
Actually, that's not really true: the two assassins were identified and killed, one by Skinner, at the end of the previous book, and the man running the operation was already dead. Skinner's real challenge is to work out why the murder took place, and his efforts to uncover the truth bring him into direct conflict with the Security Service as the layers of the plot are peeled away to shine light into ever more murky and rotten corners of the establishment. But even Bob Skinner can sometimes get things wrong, and a story that ranges as far afield as Mauritius (telephonically, at least) and London has some enjoyable twists and turns en route to a very satisfying conclusion in Tobermory on the Isle of Mull.
The previous two books in the Skinner series experimented with the way the story was told, but here we are back with Quintin Jardine's tried, tested and very successful device of a third person narrative told from a shifting perspective that moves around the cast of characters. The result is a book that shows off the partnership of Jardine and Skinner at their very best; a book that keeps you turning the page; and, unlike its immediate predecessor, a book with a proper ending. It's also a book that suggests there is plenty of life in the series yet, and we look forward to number 24!