Craig Robertson

The Undiscovered Deaths of Grace McGill – Craig Robertson


Title – The Undiscovered Deaths of Grace McGill

Author – C. S. Robertson

Published – 20 Jan 2022

Genre – Crime

I’d like to remind people who’ve read my blog previously that Craig Robertson is one of my favourite contemporary authors, however as this book is published under the name C S Robertson and I’ve seen it referred to as a debut I wonder if that could be construed as a spoiler…

So – different name, different publisher but same excellent crime vibes!

Grace McGill is an unusual young woman with an unusual job – she’s the person that’s called in to clean a property when someone has died, but Grace specialises in deaths where the person hasn’t been discovered for weeks or months. Not a job for the faint hearted! She takes her job very seriously and even though the body will have been removed from the property before she starts her work she still feels a connection to the person who has died, she’s even been known to go to their funeral.

Grace lives a very solitary and insular life. She carries out her work alone, lives alone and her only relationship seems to be with her alcoholic father who is needy, demanding and generally unpleasant. Grace admits that she can find herself obsessed with things and as a way of ‘decompressing’ from her work she’s been making miniature dioramas of the homes she has cleaned. Something in the style of Frances Glessner Lee, called the ‘mother of forensic science’, who created dollhouse-size true crime scenes. But these are unexplained deaths not crimes…

Grace’s obsessive personality comes in to play when she cleans the home of an elderly man and is intrigued by some of the things that he’s left behind, stacks of old newspapers and a group photograph of five young men from the 1960s. In an effort to find out more about the man’s past she attends his funeral and even hosts his wake … and uncovers the beginnings of a mystery that stretches back decades. And Grace can’t leave it alone, her obsession sees her behave out of character – stepping out of her comfort zone to follow in the footsteps of another young woman who disappeared more than fifty years ago. This then takes the reader on a more traditional crime fiction arc with Grace as an amateur sleuth who gets herself into deep water. But Grace has hidden depths herself!

There are some unexplained actions by Grace but she’s such an odd and complex character that what doesn’t seem logical to the reader may well make complete sense to her! It’s tempting to say that she’s an unreliable narrator but she’s perhaps more of a deluded narrator.

Although we learn a lot about Grace’s backstory, I was still curious to know more about her and how she became the person in the book. The disadvantage of a first-person narrative is the reader’s inability to see the character as others see them and I’d have been interested to see Grace from someone else’s perspective – to see how strange (or not) she seemed to others.

An unusual lead character, an unusual perspective and a disturbing story with some twist and turns. I did enjoy the book and can recommend it as something different (but without appearing to be trying hard to be different) however I have to say that I probably get more pleasure from reading the Narey and Winter series.

Many thanks to the publisher for the NetGalley.


The Photographer – Craig Robertson

Title – The Photographer

Author – Craig Robertson

Published – 25 Jan 2018

Genre – Crime

I don’t think it’s any secret that I am a fan of Craig Roberton’s writing due to his mix of gritty Glaswegian crime fiction, ability to weave in multiple plotlines and of course his very readable prose. This is the seventh book in the series featuring DI Rachel Narey and her partner, ex-police photographer Tony Winter and it’s made for a cracking start to the year.

In this case “The Photographer” isn’t Winter but a particularly violent rapist who has kept dozens and dozens of candid photographs of young women. Potentially his victims – of course, admissible in court and available to the police – of course not!

Unusually we start without much in the way of doubt about who the perpetrator is and he’s quickly brought to the attention of the police. Initially unaware of the scale of his crimes Narey’s trip to court draws a lot of public attention and this spills over into her family’s private life when she is the subject of a hate campaign via social media. Unsuccessful in the prosecution of the man, Narey becomes aware of more victims but discovering that some have disappeared gives the story a ‘race against time’ aspect. Winter receives some help from an unidentified source which allows him to pursue his own investigation and, as you would expect, he sails close to the wind.

This is less graphic than previous books but rape is a tricky subject regardless of who is writing about it. The attacks are described in enough detail that the reader can understand the terror of the women, and the violence of the assault, but there is nothing gratuitous. The  development of the victims’s characters offers an insight to the aftermath – those who crumble and those who rise above it to become more of a crusader for the rest.

It feels like it’s in this book that the author has really found the perfect balance with the series. The split of story between the two main characters (not forgetting Uncle Danny), the fact that their relationship is more settled, perhaps less violence, or at least less gore than previous books and a resolution that I was happy with – there’s nothing to criticise. As with the recent books in the series the topics are ‘cutting edge’ tackling issues you can see in the news any evening of the week. And one aspect that I must mention is Robertson’s turn of phrase – there are moments where it’s a pure joy to read, not something you can always say about crime fiction!

A great instalment in the series, many thanks to the publisher for the NetGalley.


Murderabilia – Craig Robertson


Title – Murderabilia

Author – Craig Robertson

Published – 2016

Genre – Crime

I don’t think it’s any secret that I am a fan of Craig Roberton’s writing – his mix of gritty Glaswegian crime fiction, ability to weave in multiple plotlines and of course his very readable prose. This is the sixth book in the series featuring DI Rachel Narey and her partner, ex-police photographer Tony Winter and I’m pleased to say that it didn’t disappoint.

Set just months after the end of In Place of Death, Winter is now a photo-journalist with the Scottish Standard but that doesn’t stop him getting into the thick of it when it comes to taking crime scene photos. A particularly visual death has Winter taking the pictures of a body suspended from a railway bridge, a death Narey will be investigating but something happens at the beginning of the investigation that sees Narey confined to their home and a colleague she believes to be incompetent taking over her case.

While Narey is trapped Winter does some digging of his own but not one for inaction Narey also begins to investigate one aspect of the crime scene through the only means she can – the internet. What she finds is a world where people will trade anything and everything associated with serial killers and their victims. Unable to leave her bed she becomes more and more obsessed with what she finds and is drawn into the darkest area of the web. Where the first books in this series featured Winter’s obsession with his photography and the visual aspects of the crime scene this is Narey’s turn to be consumed by something horrific.

Normally Robertson’s books offer a view of the dark side of the City of Glasgow but in this book it’s the dark side of the internet that is centre stage and those that collect items most of us would find abhorrent. The book still manages to be atmospheric because it effortlessly captures the claustraphobia of Narey’s confinement and her obsession. She’s firmly at the forefront of this book which makes it a more emotional read than perhaps the earlier titles have been.

It’s refreshing to come across a plot and a take on an investigation which is original and Robertson on certainly achieves that here. I’m always intrigued by his books, there is always some aspect that he brings in that makes me want to go away and find out more about. In this case you might (or might not) want to try Googling ‘murderabilia’ for yourself. Thank you to the publisher for the review copy.


In Place of Death – Craig Robertson

81v3mFYIqgLTitle – In Place of Death

Author – Craig Robertson

Published – 2015

Genre – Crime

This is the fifth book in the series featuring Rachel Narey (now a DI) and police photographer Tony Winter, after Robertson took a break from Glasgow for his standalone book The Last Refuge set on the Faroe Islands.

It feels like a while since I read Witness the Dead but I was soon back up to speed – Narey has recently been promoted and she and Winter are still a couple, although their relationship is being kept ‘under wraps’ from their colleagues.

The recent promotion means that when an anonymous caller reports a dead body in an ancient stream hidden under the city Narey gets her first potential homicide case. The lead up to the discovery of the body has all the hallmark’s of Robertson’s books –  tense, dark, gory. The location of the body is mystifying – the Molendinar Burn, buried beneath Glasgow – it’s not a spot most people know about, let alone visit.

As the investigation progresses a number of other deaths are discovered where bodies have been found in a similar location to the first – places which are normally ‘out of bounds’ for most people – such as abandoned or derelict buildings. Keen to impress following her recent promotion Narey makes a bid to link the initial death with all of these others, creating an investigation into a serial killer. The story blends a police procedural with a less orthodox investigation undertaken by Winter, because it becomes apparent that he knew something about the initial death that he chose not to share and he begins his own covert investigation.

I like Narey – she’s determined, fair, straightforward and pretty gutsy but she always remains credible, what does puzzle me though is what she sees in Winter. He’s so permanently self-absorbed often not just neglecting Narey but actively going against her wishes that I struggle to understand why she sticks with him, even if he does occasionally redeem himself. Although I do recognise that this fits with a lot of real-life relationships! In this case Winter pushes Narey to the limits of her patience; their relationship was always going to test their ability to keep her work separate from his unhealthy interest in the bloodier aspects of what she does.

One thing that is very clear from this series is how fond of Glasgow Robertson is. Although his books all portray a dark and somewhat seedy side of the city, nevertheless the affection he feels comes through in his descriptions. It’s a city I don’t know at all in person but I feel that I have a really good idea of what it’s like from this series.

In Place of Death is another compelling and gritty crime thriller from Robertson that has Glasgow at its heart. Thanks to the publisher for the review copy.

And if you do read the book you might be interested in reading this article afterwards


The Last Refuge – Craig Robertson

Last RefugeTitle – The Last Refuge

Author – Craig Robertson

Published – 22 May 2014

Genre – Crime

I’m not sure that I need to go to the trouble of writing a review for this latest title by Craig Robertson, as I have already given it a one via Twitter. Admittedly that was just a one word review, but the word was ‘stonking’. Whilst it’s not the most informative review I stand by the fact that this is an “exciting, very impressive” book, but I should perhaps expand on that a little.


This is a departure from Robertson’s earlier series featuring Tony Winter, the police photographer, and takes place on the Faroe Islands. The opening feels like a scene that’s a familiar one in crime fiction – a man who wakes to find that he’s clutching a blood-covered knife with no idea how it got there, or whether or not he may have committed a crime. Don’t let this put you off – there’s nothing clichéd about this story.

Turn back the clock three months and John Callum arrives on the Faroe Islands from Scotland. For reasons that are unclear Callum is seeking somewhere remote to take refuge and initially it seems that he has made the right move, until of course he has to find a job to support himself. Gradually he starts to become involved with more people – a job at a fish farm, a few acquaintances in the local bars and a potential romance. But this is where the trouble starts. There is an inherent violence about Callum, something he tries to resist but there are occasions when it erupts, to the surprise of the locals.

Callum’s dreams, or rather nightmares, are interspersed through the story and provide an insight into the events that led him to escape his Scottish home – but it is inevitable that the reader asks themselves how reliable nightmares are. Despite this it’s clear that they never cease to shake Callum, whatever took place in Scotland is something that he has some regrets over, and his mind is torturing him. This all serves to make him an intriguing character – should the reader find him sympathetic without knowing what it is he is running away from? But told in the first person, it’s hard not to be drawn in.

In some ways this is a book of two halves – the first setting the scene and the background, where the mystery is what led Callum to be clutching the bloody knife. The second half is solving the riddle of whether or not he is guilty of the crime in which he is implicated – he doesn’t know and neither does the reader. Once the crime becomes clear then we’re in police procedural / detective territory – and this benefits from some antagonism between the local force and the team called in from Denmark.

The location is a really interesting choice, the isolation, small population and the harsh and varied environment give the book the feel of a ‘Nordic noir’. The bleak and gloomy weather and surroundings matching the dark tone of Callum’s past and the situation that he finds himself in. Seeing the setting through Callum’s eyes, as an outsider, is the perfect way to introduce an unusual location, and all I know about the Faroe Islands I found out from this story. There are some quirks of the Islands that lend themselves very well to the story (or more likely have been cleverly drawn on by the author) and add to the plot.

I thought the plotting was excellent and the way Robertson told Callum’s story was intriguing. I was completely drawn in and have to confess to being baffled about the ‘whodunnit’ aspect for quite some time. An excellent read that I can’t recommend highly enough. I could ramble on for even longer – but I suggest you go out and buy a copy for yourself.

Thanks to the publisher for the review copy. You can see another review of this on Emma Lee’s Blog.


Witness the Dead – Craig Robertson

51ACckYiqOL-2Title – Witness the Dead

Author – Craig Robertson

Published – 2013

Genre – Crime

Robertson’s gritty Glasgow-based books make quite a contrast to my recent Icelandic reading!

This is the fourth instalment from Robertson and the third featuring police photographer Tony Winter. The opening scene is as you would expect from Robertson – a brutal murder that requires Winter’s presence to record the scene. In this case it is the body of a young woman who has been discovered in Glasgow’s Necropolis. Quickly one death becomes two and as the second body is found in another cemetery – this time the Southern Necropolis – there’s talk of a serial killer.

The story then switches to a second timeline, moving back to 1972, when Winter’s uncle, Danny Nielson, was a detective on the hunt for a serial killer terrorising the Glasgow nightclubs. The killer preyed on young women who had been to the Klass nightclub and had the nickname ‘Red Silk’. The narrative swaps between the two timelines as we follow the investigations into both the contemporary and the 7o’s serial killers.

Initially it isn’t clear what the connection could be between the two threads, Nielsen is insistent that there is a connection, but no-one wants to listen. It’s hard for anyone to believe there could be a link between the murders decades apart when the man thought to be responsible for the 1970s murders is behind bars.

It’s interesting to see Nielson’s contribution to the books grow and his appearance in both timelines provides a lot of his backstory. It’s good that Robertson is avoiding the pitfall of following a formula with his books, he makes the most of his regular characters to change the focus of the plots.

The story features the regular cast of supporting characters – Winter’s on / off relationship with DS Rachel Narey and his friendship with DI Addison (who may have met his match in a new colleague). There is also some humour to lighten the mood, which in large part is thanks to Narey’s rather useless new partner.

The added bonus with this book is the interaction between Winter and a convicted killer. For once Winter is horrified rather than fascinated and the killer is a more than worthy adversary, able to manipulate Winter to a surprising degree.

Another compelling and gritty crime thriller that has Glasgow at its heart. Thanks to the publisher for the review copy.


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

Snapshot – Craig Robertson

Title – Snapshot

Author – Craig Robertson

Published – 2011

Genre – Crime fiction

A series of high-profile shootings by a lone sniper leaves Glasgow terrorised and police photographer Tony Winter – a man with a tragic hidden past – mystified. Who is behind the executions of some of the most notorious drug lords in the city? As more shootings occur – including those of police officers – the authorities realise they have a vigilante on their hands. Meanwhile, Tony investigates a link between the victims and a schoolboy who has been badly beaten. Seemingly unconnected, they share a strange link. As Tony delves deeper, his quest for the truth and his search for the killer lead him down dark and dangerous paths.

Snapshot is the second crime thriller by Scottish author Craig Robertson whose debut novel, Random, was shortlisted for the CWA New Blood Dagger Award in 2010.

 Unusually the main character, Tony Winter, is a police photographer. Involved in the detail of the crime scenes he’s sidelined by the investigators and excluded from the investigations. Tony is a dark character with a troubled past. Photographing the aftermath of crime isn’t just a job to him, it’s more of an obsession.

 A serial killer is on the loose in Glasgow and he appears to be on the side of the police, killing some of the city’s most notorious criminals. Initially not assigned to the investigation because of some “unusual” behaviour, Winter pleads with DI Addison, his closest friend on the force, to be given access to the case. When his wish is granted Winter gets more than he bargained for as the killer increases the death toll.

 Spotting what may be a vital clue in his photographs which could link a number of crimes Winter is reluctant to share his news with the police. When he feels Addison has snubbed him, he decides to keep the information to himself. Then the killer seems to be getting close to Winter and those he cares about so he uses the information he has withheld to start to investigate the crimes himself. 

There is a second mystery running in parallel to the serial killer, as Winter’s policewoman girlfriend investigates the death of a prostitute, an opportunity to see yet more of the seedier side of Glasgow. Although not the main case, this is as intriguing and surprising as the main story. 

Both the plots have numerous twists and turns and keep you guessing right to the end. Set in a seedy and dark Glasgow this is a gritty thriller, and not for the feint hearted. The language is pretty strong throughout and descriptions are gruesome.

 Although this book features the same characters as the first novel, you can read Snapshot without feeling that you’ve missed anything crucial.  

Score – 4/5