Nothing To Hide is the second book in James Oswald’s new series featuring DC Con Fairchild. When we first met Con in her previous outing, No Time To Cry, she was a member of the Met’s undercover squad fighting to clear her name after the murder of her boss, Pete Copperthwaite. Now, technically innocent, although still responsible in the eyes of many of her colleagues, Con has returned to London after spending time in the Highlands, to await reinstatement and reassignment. Coming back to her flat one evening she notices a movement near the dustbins and upon investigation discovers a seriously injured young man. Calling the incident in brings her into the sphere of DCI Bain, in charge of an NCA investigation into a series of murders where the victims have died as a result of having had certain organs, including the heart, removed. (Various other bits have gone as well, but you might be male and you might be eating and I wouldn’t want to upset you.) While Con would love to be involved she is still pretty much persona non grata and to make matters worse, with the trial of Roger DeVilliers (the villain of the previous piece) coming up, she is being hounded by the press. Filling in time and reacquainting herself with the local situation she becomes aware of the existence of a group of young people claiming to be from an organisation called The Church of the Coming Light. They appear to be concerning themselves with drug addicts but at the same time give off that air of menace with which anyone who has been cornered by a cult convert will be familiar.
Desperate to get away from the press attention, Con takes herself first to her ancestral home (being Lady Constance doesn’t help with press or colleagues) and then North to Edinburgh to visit the mother of the young man she found so seriously injured. There she stays with a family friend, a ‘woman’ who also turned up in the previous book, one Madame Rose, and suddenly all long-standing Oswald fans find themselves on familiar, even comforting territory, we all know that if Rose is around everything will eventually be all right. When Con then proceeds to find herself involved with DC Janie Harrison, forensic expert Manda Parsons and, best of all, Grumpy Bob, somehow the air lightens, even though it is becoming increasingly obvious that the killings the NCA are investigating are tied up with the sort of ritual evil that we have become accustomed to in Oswald’s Edinburgh centred novels and that it is possible that Con’s mother is in thrall to the leader of the cult responsible.
Like all Oswald’s novels Nothing to Hide explores the idea that evil exists not just in the hearts of those who commit crimes of murder, torture and mutilation but as a sentient entity capable of manifesting itself in human form and then manipulating those around it who seek power and are willing to get it at any price. Although this is publicised as a separate series it is clear from both the subject matter and the gradual introduction of characters from the Tony McLean mysteries that all that is really happening is that Oswald is widening the landscape for his story-telling and the fact that the novel ends with Con joining the NCA (National Crime Agency), with it’s wider geographical remit, simply reinforces this.
Fans of the earlier series need have no worries that the author has abandoned his Edinburgh based characters; there is a new McLean novel advertised for February. Neither should they shy away from these new works. The Fairchild books are every bit as well written and well plotted as their northern counterparts and if this means that we are going to get two Oswald novels a year in future, I, for one, will rejoice.