"Runaway" by Claire MacLeary is the author's third novel. In it she continues her series featuring Harcus & Laird - Maggie and Wilma - who are would-be PIs and "women of a certain age"'. Trying to take on the private investigation business that was previously run by Maggie's now deceased husband, the two women have had limited success so far and this has tested their friendship, as each has blames the other for mistakes that have been made. The chance to take on a "misper" case is something that Maggie is therefore reluctant to accept. She sees it as a poor fit for the business and likely to do little to improve their reputation, but Wilma cajoles her into it.
The case comes their way when Aberdeen housewife Debbie Milne simply disappears from her family home one morning and husband Scott, frantic with worry, contacts the two PIs. Everything suggests that Debbie enjoys a charmed life, from which she has no reason at all to walk away. Nonetheless, the women, and the police who are also investigating the case, set about looking for clues as to why she would simply up and leave her two young children, her husband and her beautiful home. Maggie and Wilma launch a covert operation, trying to keep one step ahead of the police, whilst at the same time calling in favours to keep abreast of the official enquiry. They trawl women's refuges and homeless squats in search of a lead and learn about Debbie's old school friend Sam, who has recently come back into her life.
With the police unable to get a breakthrough, the waters become still more muddied when a woman's disfigured body is discovered in a skip in Dundee and the severity of her injuries rule out an early identification. Could this be Debbie? Struggling to find their "misper"', Harcus & Laird are dragged into a world of people trafficking, gambling and prostitution, that inevitably places them in deadly danger. Meantime, Maggie questions the worth of the exercise and her relationship with Wilma is put under even greater strain. Can they restore their reputation by solving the case and can they get their own lives back on track as part of the process?
Whilst "Runaway" is an enjoyable and well written crime novel, it is also so much more than that. Claire MacLeary lays bare the personal trials of Maggie and Wilma as they try and create some order in their disorderly and busy lives. Theirs are lives that will be familiar to many working women of their age, who have grown up or almost grown up children, worries surrounding aging relatives, mortgages to pay and the ever conflicting demands of work and home. It looks at the way these women view themselves and one another, and explores the complex relationships they must juggle just to get through each and every day. This is a book we'd wholeheartedly recommend.