First, I finished An Unsuitable Day for Murder (see earlier post), in which Dandy goes to Dunfermline to investigate the disappearance of a young woman. I enjoyed it so much that I thought we'd have another quote from it, this time the opening paragraphs:
Whatever I was expecting when I decided to take a turn around Dunfermline — I was early for my appointment and it was a particularly pleasant day — it was not this air of jubilance. Indeed, if one were taxed with naming five jubilant towns and ran out of inspiration after Paris, Barcelona, New Orleans and Rio one would not search for the fifth in Scotland's gazetteer. (And if one were taxed with naming five jubilant towns in Scotland and did not, for some reason, face the facts and pay the forfeit right away, I daresay Dunfermline would still not spring to mind.)Dandy finds herself embroiled in a feud between two prominent families in the town, and a peculiarly Scottish version of Romeo and Juliet. Though practical and resourceful as ever, she's often hard put to untangle the threads when neither family will be open with her, and when every new clue seems to lead back to something they aren't telling her. A hostile police inspector complicates matters even further. A warning: if you haven't read any of the Dandy Gilver, this is not the best place to start. It's the most tortuous of McPherson's plots, and you are going to need that family tree at the start!
Yet I could not help but notice that, today at least, the whole town effervesced in the most remarkable way. The whole city, I should properly say, for — as Hugh never tires of reminding me with much retelling of the glories of King Robert and the shenanigans of Malcolm Canmore — Dunfermline is a city and one groaning with history too: the birthplace of Charles I and more lately (not to mention more beneficially to the world at large) Andrew Carnegie. Indeed, I was passing the Carnegie library now, thinking how generous it was of him to endow it, since here was one place he might have expected to get a library named after him anyway.
A digression from crime: I recently read Straight Up, by Catriona McCloud, which is McPherson writing under another name. It's a novel set in Hollywood, about a florist who has written a novel to help her deal with the break-up of her marriage. To make herself feel better, she casts her husband as a mountaineer who dies alone on a expedition, and then finds herself trapped in an absolute deluge of deceit when it gets picked up by a film industry scout who thinks that it's a true life story, a misapprehension Verity never feels quite able to correct. At first I thought it was too chicklit, but the characters really grew on me, including, to my surprise, the Hollywood ones, and by the end I was completely won over. Sadly, I can't quote from it because it's gone back to the library - that was very shortsighted of me - but if your needs run to bits of fluff to tuck into your luggage as you set off on holiday, then this is perfect for the purpose.
And finally, back to crime with The Complaints by Ian Rankin. Not a Rebus novel, but starring a new character, Malcolm Fox, who works in the Professional Standards Unit within the Complaints and Conduct Department of the Lothian and Borders Police. His job is investigating his fellow officers when corruption is suspected and, at the start, he's just winding up the paperwork on a job when he's asked by Child Protection to look at an officer who may be downloading illegal pornography. He's hardly begun, though, when a murder occurs which brings Fox into contact with the cop in question. It's very much Rebus territory still - single, grumpy, middle-aged policeman unpopular with his peers - but even when things go badly wrong Fox isn't as irascible, nor as self-destructive, as Rebus, and the book feels fresh enough to grab your attention fast. As usual, Rankin's Edinburgh is immediately recognisable - and I don't mean just its streets and landmarks, but also its people and atmosphere, the way power is wielded in the capital and its relationship to Scotland's other cities. It was very, very hard to put down and I'll be reading the next, The Impossible Dead, just as soon as I can get hold of it.
I've got another book I want to talk about, a historical mystery set in 18th-century Northumberland, but this post is long enough, I think, so I'll save it for another day.