Detective Sergeant Rachel Narey and police photographer Tony Winter are enjoying a romantic winter weekend break at the Lake of Menteith Hotel in the Trossachs. Or are they? It soon becomes clear to Tony that Rachel has other reasons for being here. Exactly 19 years earlier the Lake of Menteith had been frozen and a girl had been brutally murdered on the island of Inchmahome in the centre of the lake. Her body was only found four months later, and neither the victim or her killer had ever been identified. The unsuccessful murder investigation had been the last major case before retirement of Alan Narey, Rachel's father, at the time a senior detective with Central Scotland Police. What he sees as his failure to win justice for the murdered girl has taken a toll on Alan Narey, and he is now suffering from Alzheimer's. Rachel has vowed to solve the case and bring what comfort she can to her dad before it is too late: even if doing so brings her into conflict with her bosses in Strathclyde Police, and with Tony.
"Cold Grave" is an unusual whodunnit because from the opening chapter it's pretty clear who did do it. Alan Narey had a suspect, a Stirling schoolteacher, but could never convince his colleagues of the man's guilt: and in the opening chapter we follow the suspect and the victim across the ice to Inchmahome in November 1993. As a result, Rachel has a very clear starting point for her investigation, but things begin to get more complicated when the suspect winds up dead and Central Scotland Police asks why Rachel and her car had been seen in the street outside his house days earlier.
You quickly realise that nothing in this book is as simple as it seems, and there are some lovely twists and turns to enjoy en route to a dramatic conclusion that has a pleasing circularity to it. Craig Robertson has produced a really high class crime novel that is guaranteed to keep you turning the page to the very end. And though it's a minor point, a very nice touch is the dating of the "present day" from Saturday 17 November 2012 to Wednesday 27 March 2013, meaning that at the time of publication the story has a real sense of immediacy. At the very end of the book is a taster for Craig Robertson's next book, "Lost Girls", due to be published in June 2013 and also featuring Rachel Narey and Tony Winter. On the evidence of "Cold Grave" we look forward to it with keen anticipation.