Mary McIntyre's disappearance tore the local community apart, inflicting wounds that still prove raw for those who knew her.
So when the present-day discovery of a child’s remains are found in a peat bog south of Glasgow, it seems the decades-old mystery may finally be solved.
Called in to excavate the body, forensic scientist Rhona MacLeod uses the advances made in forensic science since Mary’s vanishing to determine what really happened all those years ago . . . and who was responsible.
One key person had been Karen Marshall who was devastated by her best friend’s abduction. Questioned by the police at the time had led to a dead end and the case soon went cold.
Now the news of the discovered body brings the nightmares back. But added to that, memories long-buried by Karen are returning, memories that begin to reveal her role in her friend’s disappearance and perhaps even the identity of the killer . . .
I'd like to thank Philippa at Pan Macmillan for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour and for my copy of The Innocent Dead to review.
Despite being the 15th book in series The Innocent Dead can be read as a standalone, although I did feel at times as I was missing out on fully knowing these clearly established characters and their back stories, especially Rhona who I discovered had only just returned to work following a traumatic case. But the good thing about discovering an established series means that there's plenty of books for me to catch up on as I'm definitely planning to go back to the start to get to know Rhona and the rest of the team better.
Purely by coincidence this is the second book that I've read recently where the story begins with the discovery of a body in or near a lake/loch by a swimmer but that's where the similarities end. This time the body is that of a young child which makes for sombre reading as you know that they are likely to have come to a grizzly end at the hands of an unsavoury character.
The story is narrated from the viewpoint of three central characters, forensic scientist Rhona MacLeod, DS Michael McNab and Karen Marshall. This method worked well and enables us to see things unfolding from all sides although I am a sucker for forensics and cold cases, that can now be solved due to the advances in technology that weren't available when the original crime was committed, so I did find myself drawn to the forensics side a bit more than the actual criminal investigation.
It's up to forensic scientist Rhona MacLeod and her assistant Chrissy to examine the remains, the other evidence that was buried with the body which helps to narrow down the timeline somewhat, and the area surrounding the grave for the smallest piece of evidence that will hopefully help the police, ably led by DS Michael McNab and his partner DS Janice Clark, to identify the body. The search for cold cases involving missing children brings them a potential victim locally, Mary McIntyre who disappeared in 1975, so they now need to establish whether it is her and what exactly happened to her.
During the course of the investigation the team have interactions with Professor Magnus Pirie, an expert in the psychology field, as well as ex detective, now crime writer, DI Jimmy McCreadie who led the original missing person investigation. Their insights might prove invaluable into narrowing down suspects although sometimes it's a case of too many hands that could prove a distraction rather than a help.
Rhona MacLeod really was an interesting character, she's very professional and methodical when it comes to her work but at what cost? It seems like her personal life does suffer due to her ultimate dedication to her work but I did enjoy the brief interactions with the other central characters in her life.
But the character I was especially drawn to was Karen Marshall, the childhood friend of Mary, who was such a haunted character. Not only had she been deeply affected by the disappearance of her best friend as a child and not knowing what had happened to her, but in recent times she has endured the loss of her husband who she had already lost in spirit years before to dementia. It was so sad to see her talk and act as if her husband was still around but I guess that was her coping mechanism especially now that triggers to events of her childhood resurface.
The Innocent Dead was a dark, atmospheric and addictive read that was a great introduction to this series for me although maybe I shouldn't have continued reading it quite so late at night!