A Small Death in the Great Glenby Published 03 Aug 2010
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In the Highlands of 1950s Scotland, a boy is found dead in a canal lock. Two young girls tell such a fanciful story of his disappearance that no one believes them. The local newspaper staff—including Joanne Ross, the part-time typist embroiled in an abusive marriage, and her boss, a seasoned journalist determined to revamp the paper—set out to uncover and investigate the crime. Suspicion falls on several townspeople, all of whom profess their innocence. Alongside these characters are the people of the town and neighboring glens; a refugee Polish sailor; an Italian family whose cafÉ boasts the first known cappuccino machine in the north of Scotland; and a corrupt town clerk subverting the planning laws to line his own pocket.
Together, these very different Scots harbor deep and troubling secrets underneath their polished and respectable veneers—revelations that may prevent the crime from being solved and may keep the town firmly in the clutches of its shadowy past.
"A Small Death in the Great Glen" Reviews
In the 1950's in a small town in the Scottish Highlands a young child is found dead in a canal. At first everyone thought it was an accident until a young girl tells the story of his being snatched by the "hoodie crow". It is then that they find that the child not only was murdered, but that he was also interfered (molested). The two main suspects in the case is a Polish seaman who has jumped ship and is being harbored by the "tinkers" (gypsies), and a Catholic priest whose background has been in helping children.
The force behind the investigation is the local newspaper, the "Highland Gazette". The paper is put out by several very interesting people. John McAllister, a seasoned reporter who is trying to revamp the paper, who is haunted by his past when the young man's death comes very close to his own personal experience. There is also the part time typist, Joanne Ross, who is trying to bring up her children in an abusive marriage.
Although the story is built around the murder of a young child, the book tells a much larger story. A vivid and lasting picture of the staid, bleak, and sometimes wonderful existence that is portrayed of the Scolttish Highlands and its people. The prejudices of a small town are also brought out when the Polish seaman (an outsider) is accused of the crime, and an Italian family (long time residents but also considered outsiders) comes under attack because of a supposed connection to the crime. One of the more memorable parts of the novel is the description of an Italian wedding. Even if you are not Italian you will love the pageantry and familial description of the wedding.
The "Gazette" and it's reporters keep working on the child's murder and come up with some strange and confusing clues that lead them to the murderer, a person no one suspects.
A wonderful read that may well be a "step up" in the mystery/thriller category. At the end of the novel there are a lot of unanswered questions concerning the inhabitants of the "bonnie wee glen". The answers could well be in her sequel comming out in the summer of 2011.
I don't particularly like the 1950's, so I didn't expect to be able to read and enjoy this novel. I liked the Scottish cultural content and I admired the inner strength of the female protagonist, Joanne Ross. It's odd to have a protagonist who is not the detective and who doesn't investigate the case when the book is a mystery. The actual investigator of the case is a reporter at the newspaper where she works. The problems with prejudice in this small Scottish town reminded me of a similar small town in England in the Maisie Dobbs novel An Incomplete Revengeby Jacqueline Winspear. This is nowhere near as good as An Incomplete Revenge, but it is a first novel. I liked the way this book was resolved and I'm willing to read the sequel.
While I thought the beginning was a bit slow going, it picked up nicely and ended up being a good, solid mystery set in one of my favorite settings, the Highlands of Scotland. A.D. Scott did an excellent job of revealing the characters, their lives and personalities. There was a nice twist in the plot, while not obvious, also not far-fetched. Connections between the present day murder of a young boy and past incidents of child abuse were developed with care, revealing interesting details about the main characters, as well as motivation for murder. There is much happening in this novel, and the author blends it all together into an engaging story. Murder, child abuse, domestic abuse, journalistic endeavors, women's advancement, and more supply depth and substance. A Small Death in the Great Glen is the first in what promises to be a murder mystery series well worth following.
Set in Inverness and the Highlands of Scotland in the mid 1950s this is a murder mystery that though written in 2010 manages to capture the atmosphere of that time really well.
An 8 year old boy is found dead in the canal, and local people including the police are quick to make assumptions in a time when foreigners are viewed with suspicion, and there is a general lack of belief that any of their own small community could be guilty. With the setting of the Highlands in winter it may be assumed this is a ‘cosy’ mystery, but it is anything but, with recurring themes of abuse, both physical and sexual. Scott’s writing makes the novel stand out from its many counterparts.
“We know that evil exists. I try not to see it, but it is there, in big and small ways. And always balanced by good.”
...says one of the local community, indicating perhaps an eternal optimism typical of that period just after the war, but to a degree also, she is sticking her head in the sand. As well as a time of recovery and reconciliation the 1950s was a time when many women were hurt by the partners and chose to remain silent, and many children suffered abuse in institutions with society refusing to believe that such things were possible.
Yet she manages to write with tongue in cheek humour as well, and the novel needs these few brighter moments,
Umbrellas are not favoured by the Scottish people, despite the precipitous weather.
A first novel from A D Scott. I was unfortunately disappointed. It had many elements that I was interested in, even associated with – the Scottish 1950’s. But as a whole, I felt the book failed. I found that it tried to be too Scottish, bringing out every possible bad stereotype of 1950’s Scottish life and emphasizing them. Yes, it wasn’t the 21st century, but I felt that the elements as described just didn’t sit as a natural entity. And while trying to be 1956, the book ending up bringing in too many 21st century overtones.
The story is built around the death of a young boy from the town, who is found dead in the local canal. The police execute on their prejudices and pin the murder on a local foreigner with the travelling people as accomplices. “It couldn’t have been locals”. The main protagonists of the story work in the local newspaper, which the new editor, from Glasgow, is trying to modernize. They gradually uncover facts leading to the solution, which in itself is also unsatisfactory, being delivered in a rush in the last chapter.
The story spends much less time on the boy’s murder than on the town’s prejudices and secrets. Everyone dislikes foreigners, and tinkers. The various religious denominations don’t trust each other. The editor’s brother died under suspicious circumstances, the office typist is being beaten by husband and so on.
It could have been a good book, but there were too many distractions. Maybe the next one will be better, now the author has got the overt Scottishness out of the way.