A Small Weeping by Alex Gray

 

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Alex Gray is a well respected author in Scotland and, although I enjoy detective novels, I had never read any of her work.  My friend Dawn recommended her work to me, so I chose this book when I found it in our local library.  Gray’s books revolve around her character Detective Chief Inspector Lorimer.  He and his team are part of the Glasgow police force.  The book commences when they are called in to investigate the death of a prostitute, whose body was found at Queen Street Train Station in the Glasgow city centre in Scotland.  She has a flower between her hands. Some months afterwards Kirsty MacLeod, a nurse at a local care home, is found dead in a similar manner.

Lorimer works with a psychological profiler called Solomon Brightman. They travel to the island of Harris, partly because the dead nurse comes from the island, but also to interview two patients from the care home.

They interview the dead girl’s Aunt. This and the revelations of Kirsty’s brief life are very touching.  The descriptions of the island of Harris and the long journey to get there are beautifully drawn.

Back in Glasgow another nurse is murdered and the witnesses seem unable or unprepared to help. Also, Lorimer’s wife Maggie, increasingly frustrated at her empty marriage to a man who is never home, plans a year’s teaching exchange in America.

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Although I enjoyed this book, the police procedural aspects are weak. Lorimer is an interesting character, but spends less time with the police assigned to the case and more with Brightman.   I was also a little confused as to why the character of Divine Lipinski was even necessary.

Although there are a few attempts at red herrings, the identity of the murderer is evident right from the start. Some of the threads are unsatisfactorily dealt with.  However, I quite enjoyed the book and read it through more to see how the parts of the story were tied up rather than to find out who did it.  I would read more of Alex Gray’s work, but I do not think it is nearly as strong as that of Ian Rankin, Quintin Jardine or Karen Campbell, all of whom are writing in the same genre in Scotland today.

Valerie Penny

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