Fans of Scottish crime fiction will almost certainly be familiar with Quintin Jardine's take on the Edinburgh cop, Bob Skinner. Readers first encountered Skinner in 1993 in "Skinner's Rules", when he was a Detective Chief Superintendent serving as head of CID in Lothian and Borders Police. Sometimes billed as "Britain's toughest cop", Skinner is a man who has never let circumstances, or the residents of the seamier side of Edinburgh life, stand in his way, and a steadily growing band of readers has followed his adventures through 20 novels as he rose to become Chief Constable.
"Grievous Angel" is the twenty-first book in the Skinner series, and answers the question many fans were asking after the 20th, "A Rush of Blood": now Bob Skinner has established his position as Chief Constable, what is there left for him to do? Or, perhaps more to the point, what can Quintin Jardine find to tell us about him that we will want to hear, given that most of us believe that Chief Constables probably don't spend their time running round interviewing suspects and actually solving crimes?
Grievous Angel is very different from any other Skinner book Quintin Jardine has written before. For reasons that we'll leave you to find out, the book revolves around Skinner's account of two cases he was called upon to tackle as a newly promoted Detective Superintendent and newly appointed head of the Serious Crimes Unit in Lothian and Borders Police fifteen years before the events recounted in the 20th novel. The discontinuity in the timeline is one of the factors that make this a very different Skinner novel. The second is that it is written entirely from Skinner's perspective in the first person. Earlier Skinner novels were told from many different perspectives as an extensive cast list interacted with one another: and in at least one, Skinner himself only appeared as a peripheral character until late in the book.
The result is, without doubt, the best Skinner novel so far. Hearing the story exclusively from Skinner's point of view brings the plot very clearly into focus and lends an immediacy to events: and of course we have the simple fact that Quintin Jardine has grown into his characters and his craft over the past two decades. As a result the twists and turns are entertaining and largely unforeseen, and there is additional pleasure to be had from reading about Skinner's first encounters with many of the colleagues who will play such leading roles in chronologically later books in the series. We finished the book keen to discover where Quintin Jardine decides to take the Skinner series next...