"Murder at the Music Factory" by Lesley Kelly is the fourth in the author's "Health of Strangers" series. It's worth looking back at our review of the first, "The Health of Strangers", published in June 2017:
Just when you'd thought that just about every possible variant of Tartan Noir had been explored, along comes something totally different. "The Health of Strangers" by Lesley Kelly certainly draws on elements we are used to, like a cop with a messed up private life and an Edinburgh setting. But the author adds into the mix one element that changes everything. The Virus, a mutant strain of influenza, has become a modern-day Black Death, cutting a swathe through the population and leaving in its wake a society in which people are divided into the lucky immune, and the not so lucky non-immune.
It was a brilliant idea, and remains so. With that one additional element the familiar world and the familiar assumptions we make about it are turned on their heads. The difference with "Murder at the Music Factory", of course, is that the real world has caught up with the author's speculations and we are faced with a threat from a virus that in some ways seems rather similar to the one invented by Lesley Kelly for her books. I read the last couple of chapters while sitting in a car parked outside our local Sainsbury's supermarket. My other half was inside, doing our essential shopping and I could look up from the book to watch a queue of people waiting to enter the supermarket, exhibiting a range of rather different interpretations of the required 2 metre separation from the next person in line needed to preserve their isolation. Suddenly what I was reading took on a much darker edge than the author could ever have intended.
The cast of characters we find between the covers has had time to become well established and well defined over four books. Once more we find ourselves observing the petty jealousies, insecurities and squabbles of the disparate bunch of seconded police officers and health professionals who make up the North Edinburgh Health Enforcement Team. Much of the book is played out through their interactions and Mona, Bernard and the other members of the team have much more to worry about than the natural threat at the heart of the books. An undercover agent has gone rogue and is threatening to shoot a civil servant each day. As tensions mount, it's up to the team to track him down before they become lined up in the crosshairs themselves. The book is nicely paced and the writing keeps you turning the page, right to the end.