"The Killing Connection" by T.F. Muir is the author's seventh book featuring St Andrews-based Detective Chief Inspector Andy Gilchrist of Fife Constabulary and his bag-carrier, Detective Sergeant Jessie Janes, and the second we've read and reviewed. When we reviewed "Blood Torment" we said: "So, some memorable and likeable characters deployed in a fresh setting in pursuit of a beautifully constructed plot. What's not to like?" The latest book in the series is, if anything, even better; and is certainly a book we'd highly recommend to all lovers of good detective fiction, whether set in Scotland or not.
DCI Andy Gilchrist is an enjoyable protagonist. He ticks many of the boxes we've come to expect from Tartan Noir. He knows he's reached his ceiling in terms of rank, and he knows that his unorthodox methods are only tolerated so long as he achieves results. This time around he's skating on even thinner ice than usual as he has a new boss, Detective Chief Superintendent Diane Smiley, who makes little secret of her dislike of Andy's methods and of Andy himself. Which matters, because once again Andy is flying on instinct, conducting a high-profile murder investigation that isn't producing much in the way of real leads in pursuit of a murderer who, it seems, knows how to stay a step or more ahead of the police.
The book begins with a woman's body being washed ashore on rocks below St Andrews Castle in a November storm. Identifying the victim is the first problem. Finally Andy receives a call from a woman who says she knows who the murder victim is; but she disappears before she can be interviewed. A suspect is identified, but he too disappears. Can Andy solve the case before more bodies turn up?
A nice aspect of T.F. Muir's books is the interplay between the central plot and the development of the characters. Andy Gilchrist's domestic life remains anything but straightforward, but this time it is the appalling childhood and family background of Detective Sergeant Jessie Janes that provides an engaging sub-plot. In terms of setting, St Andrews and the East Neuk of Fife makes a nice break from Edinburgh or Glasgow and the overall result is an extremely well-written novel with perfectly-judged pace and an engaging plot that pulls you along to a satisfying conclusion.
Our review of T.F. Muir's last novel picked up the continuing existence of "Fife Constabulary" in his work, one of the police forces that merged to become Police Scotland on 1 April 2013. We've decided it's easy enough for the reader to rationalise his approach if you conclude that his novels are set in an almost modern world, albeit one that just happens to predate the formation of Police Scotland.