A Malice Novel
by Amy M. Reade
Trading the urban pace of Edinburgh for a tiny village overlooking a breathtaking blue loch was a great move for budding photographer Sylvie Carmichael and her artist husband, Seamus—until a dangerous crime obscures the view . . .
Sylvie’s bucolic life along the heather-covered moors of the Highlands is a world away from the hectic energy of the city. But then a London buyer is killed after purchasing a long-lost Scottish masterpiece from Seamus’s gallery—and the painting vanishes. As suspicion clouds their new life, and their relationship, Sylvie’s search for answers plunges her into an unsolved mystery dating back to Cromwellian Scotland through World War I and beyond. And as she moves closer to the truth, Sylvie is targeted by a murderer who’s after a treasure within a treasure that could rewrite history . . . and her own future.
My thoughts: The adventure in the Highlands starts with a prologue, which befits the historical element needed to tell this tale. Here the true story of the removal of the Honours of Scotland from Dunnottar Castle are told, albeit with a tasty twist that then spawns the rest of the book. While the prologue is quite factual and descriptive, the slow start proves effective when the story switches to a first person narrative set in modern times. The marked change in technique jolts the reader into the lives of Sylvie and Seamus, man and wife, and owners of a small Scottish gallery where they craft and sell Seamus’s paintings & Sylvie’s photographs – all inspired by the stunning landscapes surrounding Cauld Loch.
When a painting – that has been sitting quietly in Seamus’s gallery for many years – garners interest from two buyers, all sorts of questions arise. Why now? Why this painting? But it is only when the purchaser is later found dead following a car crash that all sorts of conspiracies come to the fore. The “accident” brings the police to their door and from hereon the Carmichaels’ lives are plunged into danger – both physical and marital. The author unites the two threads effortlessly, making the reader want to know a)who killed the buyer? b)where is the painting now? and c)will Sylvie & Seamus survive the ordeal – or rather, will their marriage?
Happily, the author immerses the reader fully into Scottish life, using British terms like ‘trousers’ and ‘mobile phones’ to keep the characters relevant and true. (Although I did spy a ‘sidewalk’ and the use of ‘bills’ as money too – but this says more about me being pernickety than anything else). The scenery is painted – pardon the pun – with great skill and diligence, worthy of any material the Scottish Tourist Board might issue. I challenge any reader to not be enchanted by the imagery and want to immediately book a trip themselves.
The story moves at a good pace, it will keep you turning the pages – or scrolling – and there are many twists and turns ahead. The questions are neatly resolved by the end, but you will undoubtedly feel the need to read more by this author. It is a rare talent to combine history and mystery with contemporary settings, characters and situations. I could see these characters in a soap opera, they have great appeal but are thoroughly down-to-earth and believable. I loved the historical flavour and felt it made for an addictive plot.
Another great story from Amy M. Reade and one I’d recommend to any mystery reader with a love for history and Scotland.
I received an ARC from NetGalley and this is my own, voluntary review.