Muir, T F - 'Tooth for a Tooth'
TOOTH FOR A TOOTH by T F Muir is the third in his DI Gilchrist series set in the city of St Andrews, Scotland, famous for its historic university, international golf and beautiful setting. At the opening of the novel. DI Gilchrist is at the funeral of his ex-wife Gail, attempting to comfort his grown up children and avoid Gail's new husband, when he is pulled away by an urgent phone call to investigate a murder.
A decades-old body has been found concealed in a grave during the funeral of an old man, the widower Hamish McLeod. This corpse is presumed to have been placed there around the time of the funeral of McLeod's wife, back in the late 60s. A lighter found near the body is one of the few clues to the identity of the victim. Gilchrist and his team encounter many difficulties in identifying the body, and have to spend much time looking at old missing-persons reports and interviewing those present at the original funeral. On a hunch, Gilchrist starts to look at the university societies of that era, in case the lighter might have been some sort of membership token.
Meanwhile a rather strident American psychic Gina Belli approaches DI Gilchrist, as she wants to write a true crime book about his investigations (Gilchrist had been involved in a high profile serial killer investigation in the first book in this series, EYE FOR AN EYE). As part of her background research, she has learnt about the mysterious hit and run death over thirty years ago of Gilchrist's much loved older brother, Jack, and uses this as her hook to persuade Jack to cooperate with her. Jack is desperate to find out more about how and why his brother was killed, but soon is concerned that the mysterious lighter found with the murder victim might have been his brother's, implicating his brother in a murder. He hides this information from his colleagues, leading to an inevitable conflict of interest between his family and his job.
This book is for the most part very well written, in particular T F Muir is very good at characterisation and dialogue and the ambiance of the pubs of St Andrews. I feel the author has brought something fresh and worthwhile to the stereotype of the dysfunctional cop, despite the fact that Gilchrist, on the face of it, seem to be the typical cliched murder detective (estranged from his wife, overfond of alcohol, difficult relationship with his children and has an on/off relationship with a junior colleague.)
However I felt that plotting of the book and the mechanics of the murder investigation were less successful. The focus on who said what, went out with whom, etc thirty or more so years earlier prior to the investigation felt unrealistic and slowed down the plot unduly, which then jarred with the more dramatic action sequences later in the book. The subplot involving the psychic also seemed not to lead the book much farther, other than adding further to the slightly contrived drama around the lighter. Overall as this writer is skilled and conveys character and setting very well, I feel that this series has great promise, and I would be quite interested in reading further novels in the series to see how the protagonist and his family fare.
Laura Root, England