I have long been a fan of Catriona McPherson’s light-hearted historical mysteries featuring Dandy Gilver, but I wasn’t aware that she had written some darker contemporary mysteries. For me, dark is always good.
At 40, Gloria is in a somewhat dowdy middle age, her life completely taken up by work and care for her severely handicapped son Nicky. Nicky will die soon, she knows, and her greatest fear is that her friend old Miss Drumm will die before he does, so that Gloria will lose her home in Miss Drumm’s cottage and have to move Nicky to care in a less expensive facility.
Gloria is driving home one stormy night from visiting Miss Drumm and Nicky in the care home when another car almost runs into her on the deserted roads near her remote cottage. She has just arrived home when the driver comes to the door and she finds he is an old friend from primary school, Stieg Tarrant.
Stieg has a favor to ask. He says he has been stalked by a woman from his school days, April Cowan. Long ago, when he and April were in the school named Eden nearby in what is now the care facility, a boy died on an overnight camping trip on school grounds. Hinting that she knows something about the death, April has demanded Stieg meet her in a small building on the grounds, and Stieg wants Gloria to go with him. When they arrive there in the pouring rain, they find April’s dead body. Their first instinct is to tell the police, but Gloria panics, worried that a body in the grounds would result in the care facility being closed, just as Eden closed after Moped Best fell off the bridge years ago.
They go back to Gloria’s cottage, where Stieg admits that he had already found the body before he fetched Gloria. After some discussion of the circumstances of April’s death, Gloria thinks April for some reason tried to frame Stieg for her own suicide, so she has Stieg stay at her cottage while she goes back to the body. The body is gone.
When Gloria tracks down April’s address and goes to her house, she finds the police already there. Soon, it becomes clear that someone is trying to frame Stieg for April’s murder. Gloria can’t help but think there must be some connection to Moped’s death. Sure enough, when she begins trying to track down the other 11 people who were children on the camp-out, most of them have died.
Set in the atmospheric countryside of Scotland, this novel is a real page-turner. As Gloria and Stieg investigate, the secrets start to come out, and Gloria even finds herself discovering the truth about her own marriage and ex-husband, who also attended the camp-out. I see there are some more McPherson books I haven’t read yet, and I’ll be looking for them.