In the mid 1900s, Glasgow was a city with over 130 "picture palaces", giving it more cinemas per person than any other city outside the United States. Many have since found other uses, been demolished, or stand derelict. Art student Jude Evans is embarking on a project to photograph and film some of these old cinemas. When she disappears it is left to her friend Liam to look for her, as the police don't take seriously his efforts to report her as missing.
Liam turns for assistance to his natural mother, who he has only recently re-met since being given up for adoption as a child. His mother is Dr Rhona MacLeod, a forensic scientist serving alongside Strathclyde Police, and she agrees to help. Their efforts to trace Jude's steps result in a grisly discovery, and soon a murder hunt is under way: though Jude herself remains unaccounted for. Rhona's focus, and that of the police, is divided between a search for a killer; the search for Jude; and an increasingly dangerous case in which they are trying to bring an east European crime boss to trial, preferably before he can have all the witnesses against him killed.
This is the eighth in the series of books by Lin Anderson featuring Dr Rhona MacLeod as the central character, and what emerges is an entertainingly complex story in which things are never quite what they appear, and in which death stalks the streets of Glasgow. The plot develops at a number of levels. Liam feels that his mother and her colleagues are not paying enough attention to Jude's disappearance, and he may be right. He therefore continues his own search, and the interactions between the different investigations taking place, and the different groups of investigators, help the plot develop towards a tense conclusion.
The result is a compellingly page-turning crime novel that keeps the reader guessing until the very end. What is particularly nice is the way the city of Glasgow emerges as a character in the story, and we get to see both its highs and lows as the book progresses. And no-one reading the book will in future be quite so oblivious when they walk or drive past any of Glasgow's many derelict cinemas.