Cold Grave – Craig Robertson

61oB7fIAomLTitle – Cold Grave

Author – Craig Robertson

Published – 29 June 2012

Genre – Crime fiction

If you’ve read Random or Snapshot you’ll be familiar with Robertson’s gritty portrayal of Glasgow and its criminal element. In Cold Grave the focus is more on DS Rachel Narey and her (still secret) boyfriend the police photographer Tony Winter.

Narey’s retired detective father has recently had to move into a home as his health deteriorates and she believes that solving the one great cold case of his career will give him some peace. But this is a case that goes back to 1993 and, as the title suggests, is cold in more ways than one. The mystery is the horrific murder of a young girl on a Scottish island which became newsworthy in winter 1993 after the lake it lies in the centre of froze over. People travelled from all over Scotland to walk across the ice, but after the waters thawed workmen made a grisly discovery of a body left behind on the island. Almost 20 years later and the girl hasn’t been identified or the murderer caught.

Narey persuades Winter to help her and she also enlists his Uncle, ex-policemen Danny. All three of them manage to conduct their own investigation on the periphery of police activity into what may or may not be a related case. While Narey pursues her father’s main suspect and works to identify the girl, Danny and Winter follow up leads that gypsy travellers were involved, so we see yet another violent side to Glasgow.

The cast of characters is the same as in Snapshot, but we find out more about Narey and her relationships with her father and Winter. Addison is still recovering from the attack in Snapshot and is office-bound, so plays a smaller role – which frankly I was disappointed about.

It seemed to me that the language, the gore and the use of Scottish dialect were all toned down compared to Snapshot, but perhaps it just wasn’t as shocking to me the second time round. Winter still has his morbid fascination with blood, carnage and photographing the aftermath of violence, so it’s not an easy read. During the course of the book he’s called out to photograph some disturbing crime scenes, but his real obsession is Lily of the Lake.

The story itself is gripping and it’s hard at the beginning to imagine how there can be a whole book’s worth of story to come, but what you actually get is a great mix of action, tension and mystery. The aspects of the story which deal with Narey’s father’s developing Alzheimer’s offer a change of pace, but they certainly don’t lighten the mood.

I have to confess that there were one or two  incidents in the latter part of the book where I wasn’t sure if things were quite right and I was tempted to flick back a few pages to check.

If you like gritty crime fiction and don’t mind a splash of gore, then this is a book you should read. Personally I think it makes more sense if you’ve read Snapshot first, but I’m sure there’s enough background to introduce a new reader to the series.

You can see another review of this title at Emma Lee’s Blog.

Score – 4/5

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2 comments

  1. I read (and enjoyed) Snapshot and was curious to know about this new book – which I’d heard of but yours is the first review I’ve read about it.

    I liked Snapshot because of its original setting (in the dungeons) and the use of a police photographer as a main person. I don’t think the writing was as good as it could be. Still, if this book has some of the same originality, I’ll probably enjoy it, too.

    1. I think this is more conventional than Snapshot, but for me was preferable becuase the lanugae & gore felt a little toned down. Possibly Robertson has a strategy to use the same cast of characters but chnage the focus, which could work well.

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