There's something very refreshing about the Robbie Munro novels by William McIntyre. Robbie is a criminal defence lawyer who does much of his work in West Lothian, and so is the author. The publisher's blurb notes that "William McIntyre is a lawyer involved in criminal defence work for so long that he can remember when the Scots Criminal Justice System was regarded as the best in the world..." What this means is that the settings and background to Robbie Munro's working life, and the legal procedures he engages with for the benefit of his clients, are totally authentic. What's particularly refreshing is that they give a very different perspective on the criminal justice system from most Tartan Noir novels, which tend to approach their subject from the point of view of a protagonist who is a police officer.
The characters created by William McIntyre feel absolutely right. Robbie Munro deals with life with a laid-back attitude and an eye for the humorous in any situation, which brings his character to life beautifully. Add in a supporting cast of a father who is an irascible ex-police sergeant, a brother who is a famous ex-footballer, a young daughter who is worldly beyond her years, and a new wife who has her own take on the criminal justice system, and the result has enough entertaining variables to provide an excellent backdrop to whatever story the author wishes to tell.
In "Stitch Up", we join Robbie as he is asked by his ex-flame, Jill, to investigate the death of her extremely rich husband - the man she dumped Robbie for - in an Edinburgh hotel room. Everyone except Jill believes the death was suicide, but she thinks it was murder. Robbie is reluctant to take on the case but Jill is willing to pay him extravagantly for his time, so he goes with the flow. Meanwhile child-murderer Ricky Hertz has been released from prison after 20 years as a result of the emergence of new evidence that suggests his conviction was based on a stitch-up by the police. Robbie's father was involved in the original prosecution and becomes the subject of a criminal investigation: and it soon becomes clear that there is every likelihood of his being sent to prison unless Robbie can find out what really happened, despite his dad's unwillingness to co-operate.
The interplay of the book's two main strands keeps the reader gripped right through to the very end. The resolutions are satisfying and convincing and unexpected: but they are also rather subtle. We got to the end of the book wondering whether we'd somehow missed something important. It took a couple of re-reads, cross-referenced with a flick back through to book to two key moments earlier on in the story, before we decided we really did understand what had happened. It was worth the effort, but we wonder whether every reader is going to (or should be expected to) work that hard to understand the author's intentions. Despite this, "Stitch Up" is a book we'd recommend to all fans of Tartan Noir who want something just a little different.