Witness the Dead by Craig Robertson
Craig Robertson is a Scottish author who, was born on 22 April, 1962 in Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland. Before becoming a writer he was a journalist. During his 20-year career with a Scottish Sunday newspaper, Craig Robertson interviewed three recent Prime Ministers; attended major stories including 9/11, Dunblane, the Omagh bombing and the disappearance of Madeleine McCann. His debut novel, Random, was shortlisted for the CWA New Blood Dagger and was a Sunday Times bestseller. He came to speak to a local Writers’ Group about writing his novels and to give tips on being a professional novelist. However, he told the group about his journalistic exploits. These were entertaining but not useful to prospective writers. He also offered copies of various of his books for sale. I did not buy Witness the Dead from Robertson himself. I bought it from the local charity shop where all of his titles were available for a few pennies each. From those I chose Witness the Dead. I liked the title and the summary of the story on the back of the book.
Witness The Dead is the third of Robertson’s series featuring Tony Winter. Perhaps I should have started at the beginning of the series. Winter is a scene of crime photographer who possesses a unique eye, and at times a slightly disturbing type of empathy with the victims that he photographs. Tony’s uncle, Danny Neilson, a former policeman, is introduced along with a case that has always haunted him personally. In the 1970s, Danny Neilson was the detective working on the infamous Red Silk murders. Still haunted by the memory of the unsolved investigation, he spots a link between new murders and those carried out by Red Silk. These are details that no copycat killer could have known about.
Scottish Police are called to a murder scene in Glasgow’s Northern Necropolis. The body of a young woman lies stretched out over a tomb in what looks like a ritualistic murder. Her body bears a three letter message from her killer, marked in lurid red lipstick. Archibald Atto, the man suspected of the killings all those years ago, is rotting in jail, so Danny has to face up to his fear that they never caught their man. Neilson goes with police photographer Tony Winter, to visit Archibald Atto in prison. But Atto will not speak to them unless it is on his terms. As clues begin to surface, they learn that they are dealing with a killer whose agenda is so terrifying and history so twisted that it will take the combined efforts of police forces past and present to make an arrest. There is an undercurrent of tension between Winter and DS Rachel Narey with the ending of their formerly top secret romance. There is also tension between Narey and a new naive DC who infuriates the hell out of her. Her boss DI Addison is forced into a joint investigation with DCI Kelbie and there is tension between them too. Witness the Dead could have been a good police procedural, had care been taken in the production of it.
In the edition I read, there were spelling errors, errors within the plot line, errors to details of the victim’s family and errors introducing random characters. Other Writers’ Group members who bought books direct from the author had similar issues. All of us were cross and disappointed by Robertson’s careless lack of attention to detail in the production of his novels. Whether or not all of the issues were caused by Robertson, it is his name on the cover of the book. I felt that, if I could take enough interest in his story to notice the mistakes in the plot and the characters, the least the author could do was to take a similar level of interest. I was disappointed that he had not done so. For this reason, I have not read any further books by Craig Robertson. Some of his other books may be more carefully produced, but I doubt I will ever know and I cannot recommend Witness the Dead.