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Follow the Dead by Lin Anderson

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Follow the Dead by Lin Anderson is the 12th in her Rhona MacLeod mystery series, but the first I have read. It certainly will not be the last. I chose this book as it begins in Aviemore, a small town in a valley at the base of the Cairngorm Mountains in the Scottish Highlands. I visited there several years ago on a trip to the Highlands, Orkney and Shetland and thought I’d enjoy the locale as well as the mystery – and I did.

The story begins on 30 December, as villagers and tourists prepare to celebrate Hogmanay (New Years Eve). We meet two couples, long time friends and climbers who have been stranded on the mountain, as they wait out the storm in what is known as Shelter Stone. A place to stay safe until the storm passes and they can descend to Aviemore. However, for these four young climbers it is far from safe.

We also meet DS Michael McNab, about to get a tattoo to disguise the disfiguration of a bullet hole in his back. And, we meet Rhona MacLeod, a forensic scientist who is in Aviemore with her musician boyfriend to celebrate the New Year. Her romantic weekend away is interrupted by the discovery of three bodies in the Shelter Stone, and one missing young woman. There is also a small plane down on a nearby loch, and a missing pilot. The Mountain Rescue crew head to the scene, along with Rhona – and the story begins.

I found Rhona MacLeod’s character especially interesting, her search for forensic evidence and the harvesting of even minute bits that could contain DNA and prove that a particular person was in a particular place. Locard’s principle of “every contact leaves a trace”.

McNab meanwhile is in Glasgow, preparing for a raid on a club that involves both cocaine and underage sex. Here, we are truly into dark territory. A little darker than I am comfortable with, but the story that is developing in the mountains counters the brutality of what is going on in the city. Both the case in Glasgow, and the case in Aviemore are of interest to the Norwegian police, and Detective Alvis Olsen is sent to Scotland to see if there is information available from McNab, and Rhona that will contribute to his own investigation.

Those who have read the earlier novels in the series will know the back-story of the relationship between McNab and MacLeod, and the other secondary characters, but there is enough said that it does not matter if you’ve not read the earlier novels.

I liked all of the characters, and the slowly revealed connections between both investigations that come together during a severe storm on the North Sea, with another horror, that of smuggling of refugee children, is exposed.

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