It's Hogmanay (New Year) in Aviemore. Forensic scientist Dr Rhona Macleod is enjoying a well-earned holiday. Or she would be if she hadn't offered to join the Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team when they are called out to two emergencies high in the mountains. There are reports of a crashed aircraft on the ice of a frozen loch, and a group of four experience young climbers have been reported missing in the same area. The stage is set for tragedy. It soon becomes clear that the plane crash has resulted in at least one death, and then three of the four young climbers are found dead in what seems to Rhona to be slightly odd circumstances. Meanwhile the fourth is still missing and weather conditions are deteriorating.
Back in Glasgow, Detective Sergeant Michael McNab is taking part in a raid on a club. He expects to find cocaine in large quantities, and does. But he also finds much more, and it becomes clear that Glasgow is the destination of a people-smuggling operation involving young girls. One girl, though originally from far to the south and east, seems to speak some Norwegian, and links begin to be made with the crashed aircraft in the Cairngorms, which is also Norwegian. Enter a third central character, Norwegian detective Alvis Olsen, who has theories of his own about what is going on. He and DS McNab are too alike to work well together, but between them they make progress. Until McNab drops off the radar altogether.
"Follow the Dead" by Lin Anderson is an outstanding thriller in which the action initially moves back and forth between the Cairngorm Mountains and Glasgow. The intriguing tentacles of the storyline then reach out further, to Norway and elsewhere. The pace is beautifully judged, and though there are plenty of twists and turns, the reader never feels left behind. The book you become so deeply immersed in isn't really a whodunit, because segments are told from the perspective of the mysterious individual who is responsible for the mayhem, but despite this the story gets under the reader's skin and you find yourself drawn along remorselessly. The climax generates real tension, and emerges as a fittingly ambivalent conclusion to what has gone before.
In a book like this so much depends on the strength of the central characters. Dr Rhona MacLeod and DS Michael McNab have featured in a number of the author's previous books and are superbly established. Each develops nicely during the course of "Follow the Dead". McNab is a man who has faced and overcome personal demons in the past, but will he be able to do so again, given the way his professional life seems to bring grave misfortune to everyone he meets, and especially to those he really cares about?