"The Goldenacre" by Philip Miller takes a rather unusual approach to a well-trodden path, of a murder mystery set in Edinburgh. What sets it apart and makes it memorable is its backdrop of the art world: a world inhabited, it seems, by quirky and unusual characters.
This is one of those books where a reviewer needs to be careful about how much of the plot they reveal. We'll settle for the usual fallback in these circumstances and give an idea of the story using the publisher's blurb: "The Goldenacre – a masterpiece by the painter and architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh – has been given to the people of Scotland. The beautiful canvas, the last work by the artistic genius, enthrals the art world, but behind it lies a dark and violent mystery. Thomas Tallis, an art expert with a trouble past, is trying to uncover the truth about the painting's complex history, while dogged newspaper reporter Shona Sandison is investigating a series of shocking murders in Edinburgh. Both investigators soon become engulfed in the machinations of money, crime and identity in a literary thriller set amid the seen and unseen forces at work in modern Scotland."
We may have seen the like of Shona Sandison in crime fiction before, though she does serve to reinforce the impression that journalism may be a career that comes with challenges these days: an impression given added weight by the knowledge that the author was himself a journalist for twenty years. Thomas Tallis, on the other hand, really is something rather different, a central character who comes complete with secrets and a range of behavioural issues that from a reader's perspective leave him somewhere between unlovable and downright odd.
The author does not seek to hide from the reader the fact that the two parallel investigations are destined to converge: and converge they inevitably do. There are some interesting twists and turns en route to a conclusion that has some nicely veiled elements. Could the author have invented a new sub-genre, of "Arty Tartan Noir"? Whether or not you feel this is an apt description, this could certainly be the book for you if you are looking for something a little out of the ordinary in terms of your Scottish crime fiction.