Friday, December 14, 2012

Newest Scottish Noir: T. Frank Muir, HAND FOR A HAND

US cover
Scottish noir? Crime fiction fans know it's been around for a while; from William McIlvanney to Ian Rankin to Denise Mina to Quintin Jardine, this grim and often deeply satisfying group of authors and their books belongs on the shelves for savoring and re-reading. More established than Scandinavian noir, the tight geography and urban flavor of much of the group also means it's common to notice the connections among the authors, adding an extra level of intrigue to these books.

This year, 2012, is the first for a conference dedicated to Scottish noir: The BLOODY SCOTLAND conference was held in September, and I wish I'd been there -- what a range of authors and topics! Check it out here.

A few weeks ago, the first U.S. edition of HAND FOR A HAND by T. Frank Muir arrived, thank to Soho Crime bringing this author across the Atlantic. Muir already has three investigations in print in the United Kingdom, so we can expect to see the American versions arrive quickly.

UK cover
HAND FOR A HAND is Muir's debut crime novel, but well seasoned in writing style. How the author got there is hard to figure, as his website leaves his past well shrouded in mystery. That's fine with me, as long as the books keep coming! As this one opens, a frightening discovery on a golf course demands the attention of DCI Andy Gilchrist. There is, literally, an amputated hand in the sand bunker, clutching a note addressed to the investigator by name, and saying: Murder.

Against some views of protocol, Andy seems likely to become the senior investigating officer for this defacement of Scotland's golf-course reputation. But that slot turns out to stay with the Chief Superintendent after all. And what the Chief Superintendent decides, is not available for argument. That includes the infuriating, appalling assignment of Gilchrist's long-time enemy Ronnie Watts to the police team. "In this Division I don't want anyone to harbour past grievances," explains the Chief to Gilchrist. Bygones should be bygones.

But they really can't be, considering what's happened between the two men in the past. And as it turns out, most of Gilchrist's past and present life is at stake with a criminal who's determined to hurt him as much as possible -- over and over and over again.

With the intensity and pace of a Lee Child ticking-clock thriller, added to the insight and detailed police procedural style that Scottish noir so often features, Muir provides an action-packed investigation that will ruin your plans for the weekend. So change those plans -- it's urgent to read this one now, because there are at least two more lined up. Good reading ahead.

Alert for collectors: Muir's crime fiction covers include three forms of his name -- you can see see here, on the US and UK covers, both T. Frank Muir and Frank Muir; another UK one (see his website) reads T. F. Muir. As I said earlier: This is an author of mystery, in himself as well as his books.

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