"Sewing the Shadows Together" by Alison Baillie is a highly immersive novel that touches on themes that will be familiar to anyone over a certain age who tries to take stock of what they have done with their life. Fifty-something Tom McIver has returned to Portobello near Edinburgh, where he lived for the first sixteen years of his life. He has come back to Scotland from South Africa to scatter his mother's ashes on the Hebridean island of Eriskay, where she was born, but feels he has to visit his childhood home. It was here that he went to school; and it was here, thirty seven years previously, that his thirteen-year-old sister Shona was brutally murdered.
Tom's visit coincides with a school reunion, which he attends with no great enthusiasm, and he meets others whose lives were profoundly affected by Shona's murder, especially her best friend Sarah. And then the news emerges that DNA analysis has revealed that the local man quickly arrested, charged and convicted of Shona's murder all those years before could not have been her killer. The man has been released from detention and those who knew Shona have to come to terms with the thought that her murder produced two victims, a thirteen year old girl, and a man wrongly locked up for all that time. The question that arises is the obvious one: if the man everyone believed had been the murderer had not committed the crime, then who had? It soon becomes clear that others who knew Shona at the time had secrets, and that some are still living with the consequences of keeping those secrets, nearly four decades later. Tom and Sarah both come to believe they know who murdered Shona, but their suspicions head in conflicting directions.
Then another death occurs, and lives that had already started to reshape themselves away from patterns fixed over decades suddenly have to adapt much more rapidly. Alison Baillie has produced a highly entertaining novel that keeps you turning the page until the very end. En route she subjects the reader to some highly artful misdirection and the conclusion, when you reach it, is both unexpected and highly plausible. Most of the book is told through the eyes of either Tom or Sarah, and the central characters are engaging and convincing and the overall result is a commendable debut novel.