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Dead Man's Grave by Neil Lancaster

29th March, 2024.

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Neil Lancaster has quickly made a name for himself with a couple of deetcive series and having seen favourable comments on twitter, I decided to go back to the first instalment in his Max Craigie series.

This well thought out crime action caper delivers some genuine thrills but really excels with the authenticity of the spy elements and the characters development - get hooked by the spying, stay for the spies.

Starting with a mysterious and almost folksy horror scene in a remote Scottish graveyard, Dead Man’s Grave pitches relocated Met detective Max Craigie into a centuries old feud and institutional corruption in a thriller that races across Scotland. 

 

The opening in the graveyard is a nice hook, and from there the story is set up sharply and little time is wasted in pairing Detective Max Craigie with rookie Janie Caldie. Both of them are wary outsiders with Craigie transferred from the Met whilst he faces an inquiry about a shooting, and Calder is highly rated and on for fast track promotion despite the less than favourable attitudes of her colleagues. 

 

The two are packed off to investigate the disappearance of the head of Scotland’s most powerful crime family - why these two? Because there’s a worry that this crime family may have infiltrated the police. Once we have the basic details we are off and racing across  Scotland with a gripping set up of criminals (and maybe police?) following Max and Janie as they try to stay a step ahead in solving mysteries old and new. 

 

SUPER SPY

Turning to crime writing after serving in the police or armed forces seems to be such a popular career path that I’m surprised they’re not using it as a recruiting tool - “want to fight crime AND become a published author? Sign up to join the police today.” The extra spin that Lancaster brings is that he was in fact in both the armed forces and the police, as well as having served as a covert police specialist. He bequeaths super surveillance skills to his detective and it adds an extra layer of excitement and joy to the proceedings. Craigie doesn't just use the smart tech, he knows how to build and adapt it - he's Q and Bond.It also provides another way for the case to develop and these skills are put to the test when it is made clear to Detective Craigie that he may well be fighting this battle without the full support of law enforcement. Fortunately, Calder is on his side and she proves to be a more than capable partner and a more rounded, interesting  supporting character than some lesser crime books provide. 

 

As well as the authenticity and extra detail that Lancaster brings to the case and the characters, he also spins a speedy yarn that has some fine action and some su plots and additional characters that are developed with relish and hint at what might be to come in future books. 

 

Not only does this book get a thumbs up from me, but I also lent it to my brother when he was back from his travels and he promptly read it in a couple of days and ordered the next two and flew through them too. I am now keen to catch up…


BISCUIT RATING

Biscuit rating for Dead Man’s Grave - a ginger cream crunch - solid, dependable, and with a little kick of extra flavour and enjoyable filling that makes you glad there’s another one to start on.

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