Thursday, 15 December 2011

'The Edinburgh Dead' - Brian Ruckley


The Edinburgh Dead by Brian Ruckley is a book I bought simply because I liked the writer's previous book, The Godless World. A series which I thought was under appreciated. It's a very grim fantasy setting, much like Joe Abercrombie and George RR Martin. In The Edinburgh Dead Brian Ruckley takes a different approach to world building. Instead of making up a new world he chooses a historical approach with Edinburgh as the setting. He researched the city and also the history of its police force. I do like crime novels and I recently made a promise to read some books which were not set in London or New York. This book was bought and paid for by myself. Thank you me!

The setting might be new to me, but there are no surprises with our protagonist, Adam Quire. Like many other fictional coppers he has a troubled past, and a weakness to alcohol. He likes to do things his own way, which might be why the top brass are not too fond of him, in spite of his excellent results.  He does have a benefactor who is able to shield him from his worst critics. Unfortunately for Adam Quire his benefactor is not without enemies of his own, and they are all waiting for a small misstep. Adam Quire even has physical disability to remind him of his time in the army, and the horrors he saw there. As it turns out there are more horrors to come for Adam Quire.

An unusually brutal murder has taken place in Edinburgh. The victim, a young man, was left for dead with savage injuries. He looked more like the victim of a beast than a man, but this course of action is ruled out as wild beasts simply don't feature in civilised Edinburgh. Adam Quire suspects there is more to the murder than what it seems and requests permission to show the body to a professor who has previously been able to help them with their investigations.

Adam Quire's enemies are quick to call this a waste of resources and when the good professor is unable to come to any conclusions his stock sink even lower. There is however some light at the end of the tunnel, no man could have inflicted those wounds. Only an animal like a dog or wolf could have been responsible.

I admit I was completely oblivious to the supernatural traits of this book, so I was somewhat surprised an animal would be involved. Thinking about it, the tag line written across the cover should have alerted me to this. It was however a pleasant surprise. I know from previous experience that Brian Ruckley does a good job of creating a very menacing atmosphere and I was already thinking of The Hound of Baskerville.

The dead man is so far unidentified so some good honest police work is now required by Adam Quire. This is the part where Edinburgh really comes alive from Brian Ruckley's writing and I think we get a realistic view of life in Edinburgh at that time. Not surprisingly, Adam Quire starts out with some arm twisting in the seedier districts, and to his surprise he finds himself in the finer parts of Edinburgh. He is forced to adopt a much gentler approach with the fine folk than with the poor. Unfortunately, the rich have a lot of influential friends, and Adam Quire finds himself in trouble with his superiors.

You quite quickly get a sense of Adam Quire being on an inevitable path to self-destruction like so many fictional coppers before him. No one ever seems to appreciate it when the nobs are investigated. Power and influence has often worked as a shield against the law, and there is a price to be paid for justice. Is Adam Quire willing to pay it?

The Edinburgh Dead is more about mystery, menace and dread than good honest police work. It was not what I expected, but it did work out well in the end. I felt Adam Quire was perhaps a little too plain and predictable to make a truly great character, but having said that I would still read the next book if there is one. He did grow on me, and did develop as a character. He learned a lot about himself, and what's important in life.

If you are into supernatural frights without sparkly vampires The Edinburgh Dead might just be the book for you. It's a well written and entertaining book.

The Edinburgh Dead wighs in at 416 pages and is published by Orbit Books.

Recommendation: read  

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