The Low Road by A. D. Scott
A. D. Scott (pen name of Ann Deborah Nolan) is an author whose mystery novels are set in the Scottish Highlands, in the years following the Second World War. The war may be over but the effects of the depravation of that time are still being felt.
If you have not yet read this series, start with the first Small Death in the Great Glen and read them all in order. A. D. Scott did not start writing until she was far from the Highlands and well into her middle age. Asked why write a mystery novel, she answered, “ I love reading mysteries; I especially love novels that give a sense of time and place. My favourites are too many to mention but Donna Leon, Mala Nunn, Peter Robinson, Ian Rankin, Kate Atkinson, and Laura Lipman are wonderful. I love mysteries that immerse the reader in another culture so I am a fan of Scandinavian and Icelandic crime writers and the Aurelio Zen stories set in Sicily.”
And certainly A.D. Scott has joined the ranks of those authors with her fifth Highland Gazette mystery, The Low Road, featuring newspaper publisher John McAllister and Joanne Ross. In this installment we learn a lot more about McAllister and his past, about his father, a fire fighter, who was killed in the Clydeside Blitz in Glasgow. We learn about McAllister’s time in Spain during the Spanish Civil War, and in Paris after the liberation. McAllister is now well into his middle age and re-assessing both his past and his future, and what he sees disturbs him deeply. His involvement with an ambitious young woman from a Glasgow newspaper complicates it all further.
As the past resurfaces, bringing a childhood friend back into McAllister’s life, it also brings danger to McAllister and threatens the safety of those he loves. McAllister’s mother in Glasgow becomes more of a presence in this novel, as mother and son come to a new understanding of their shared past.
Joanne Ross, engaged to McAllister and bringing her daughters into his home, is still struggling to recover emotionally and physically from a serious injury. All are aware of McAllister’s unspoken doubts and worry that he may decide to ask for his freedom.
A. D. Scott now lives in Viet Nam, far from the Scottish Highlands where she grew up in the years she writes about. To assist in returning to that time and place she says, “I have a detailed, large scale, contour map of the area printed in 1954. The colors are beautiful and the shades of green and brown and blue are a wonderful ‘aide memoire’ to my childhood. Also, when I was at school we went everywhere by bicycle, often long distances, this is the best way to know and remember a place. In those days, even a nine-year-old could wander off on her own. A sense of smell is also important. Close your eyes, think of the time of year and remember what is smells like. This always works for me.”