I’ve come rather late to Alex Gray’s series featuring Detective Superintendent William Lorimer and psychologist and criminal profiler, Dr Solomon Brightman. As a result, while this is the latest in the sequence, I’m still catching up with some of the earlier volumes, which means that I haven’t yet met Joseph Alexander Flynn, reformed drug addict and now Lorimer family friend, who kicks off this latest novel when he digs up a skull while landscaping a garden. The Cold Case Team are called in and, even though it’s clear that the man has been murdered, the death would hardly have troubled Lorimer and his Major Incident Team were it not for the fact that the bullet is also retrieved and, when it is examined, it proves to have been fired by a gun that is still around, a gun that is being used to execute retired police officers.
The first of these is George Phillips, Lorimer’s old boss, gunned down in his own garden. The killing of one of their own brings all the members of Police Scotland together in the search for the gunmen and their efforts are redoubled when the murder of Ex DI Stephen McAlpine follows hard on the heels of that of Phillips. At first the two deaths are treated as a dreadful coincidence, but when ballistic evidence shows that the same gun fired both bullets and those bullets are then linked to that found by Flynn in a suburban garden, it becomes apparent that a single mind is behind all three murders.
The immediate focus of the investigation centres on criminals put away by the murdered officers. However, try as they might, Lorimer’s team finds it impossible to discover a common individual among the rogues apprehended and incarcerated as a result of the work of those have been killed. If there is a mastermind behind the deaths, he or she is not going to be easy to pinpoint.
Solly Brightman, of course, is looking for a pattern in the killings. Most obviously the killer appears to be targeting officers who have retired. This theory is apparently blown out of the water when the fourth victim is still in service. Have all their deliberation so far been misdirected?
Meanwhile, in Barlinnie prison, John Ramsey is coming to the end of a fifteen year sentence. Now elderly, and suffering from the cancer that he knows will kill him within a year, he is both looking forward to and dreading his release. While the pleasures of freedom are enticing, as soon as he gets out he has a job to do for the mysterious figure known as The Old Man. He has to kill a man he has no reason to dislike other than for the fact that he is a police officer and, despite his past record, the thought troubles Ramsey. But should he fail to go through with the execution his own death will follow even more swiftly than expected and it will not be pleasant.
While I enjoy Gray’s work enough to keep coming back to it, there are features of her writing which I have to say I do find irritating. In particular, she has a tendency to over explain things, very often by Lorimer imparting information to his long-suffering wife, Maggie, that I’m sure, after all these years of being married to a policeman, she must already know. It feels clumsy. There are also elements of the plot line in this particular novel, which I didn’t feel worked very well. One of these proved to be a red herring which petered out into nothing. The other, for me, meant that the ending was unsatisfactory, although I’m sure some readers will have no problem with it. Nevertheless, it was an interesting enough read and I’m certain true fans of Lorimer and Brightman will enjoy it very much.
With thanks to the Little, Brown Book Group and NetGalley for providing a review copy.