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Monday, 5 March 2018

‘Human Face’ by Aline Templeton

Published by Allison and Busby,
18 January 2018. 
ISBN: 978-0-7490-2263-1 (HB)

A detective inspector with serious amounts of emotional baggage; a sidekick with too much enthusiasm and plenty of attitude; a new police initiative with the potential for travel to locations guaranteed to make any investigation more difficult. Does that sound like the set-up for a new series?

It certainly does, and Aline Templeton is just the author to make it work. Human Face introduces DI Kelso Strang, newly returned to Police Scotland after compassionate leave following the death of his pregnant wife in a car accident. He's still grieving, and it's bad for morale, so his boss, the redoubtable but soft-centred DCS Jane Borthwick, packs him off to Skye to test-drive the new mobile Serious Rural Crimes initiative on a missing person case.

The case involves a small charity with its HQ on the island, run by smooth charmer Adam Carnegie and ingenuous Beatrice Lacey – and though everything seems straightforward at first, it soon proves to be a lot more complicated than Strang expected. Eva, the missing woman, is one of a series of Eastern European 'housekeepers' brought in by Carnegie; and Daniel Tennant, the temporary resident who reported her disappearance, turns out not to be an author as he claims, but something a lot dodgier.

Skye is a small island, and before long it appears that just about everyone in the vicinity has a part  to play; the gossip machine works overtime, and among his other efforts, Strang finds himself  picking hard facts out of rumour and hearsay. And then there's Livvy Murray, the local constable, a trouble-magnet from Glasgow who has been banished to the Isles for some wrongdoing which is never specified; she's a little too keen to show her true worth, and resents being consigned to carrying coffee and organizing cleaners.

It's hard to say which is Aline Templeton's greatest skill: meticulously drawn, rounded characters with rich backstories, awe-inspiring landscapes which change from brooding to glorious in minutes, or plots with more strands and layers than the Bayeux Tapestry. The result is even greater than the sum of the parts: a pacy storyline with bags of atmosphere and undercurrents, peopled by characters you either loathe or want to know better.

There are even enough loose ends to make a follow-up inevitable, and if the Serious Rural Crimes squad takes off, Kelso Strang could soon take his place at the centre of a long-running series. I sincerely hope he does.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Aline Templeton grew up in the fishing village of Anstruther, on the east coast of Scotland not far from St Andrews.  The memories of beautiful scenery and a close community inspired her to set the Marjory Fleming series in a place very like that – rural Galloway, in the south-west of Scotland. After attending Cambridge University to read English she taught for a few years.  She now writes full-time and lives in Edinburgh in a house with a balcony built by an astronomer to observe the stars, with a splendid view of the castle and the beautiful city skyline. 

Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

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