A Small Death in the Great Glen

( 15 )

Overview

Both probing character study and a driving novel of suspense, here is a novel that will linger in your mind like mist over the Scottish glens . . .

In the Highlands of 1950s Scotland, a boy is found dead in a canal lock. Two young girls tell such a fanciful story of his disappearance that no one believes them. The local newspaper staff?including Joanne Ross, the part-time typist embroiled in an abusive marriage, and her boss, a seasoned journalist determined to revamp the ...

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A Small Death in the Great Glen: A Novel

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Overview

Both probing character study and a driving novel of suspense, here is a novel that will linger in your mind like mist over the Scottish glens . . .

In the Highlands of 1950s Scotland, a boy is found dead in a canal lock. Two young girls tell such a fanciful story of his disappearance that no one believes them. The local newspaper staff—including Joanne Ross, the part-time typist embroiled in an abusive marriage, and her boss, a seasoned journalist determined to revamp the paper—set out to uncover and investigate the crime. Suspicion falls on several townspeople, all of whom profess their innocence. Alongside these characters are the people of the town and neighboring glens; a refugee Polish sailor; an Italian family whose café boasts the first known cappuccino machine in the north of Scotland; and a corrupt town clerk subverting the planning laws to line his own pocket.

Together, these very different Scots harbor deep and troubling secrets underneath their polished and respectable veneers—revelations that may prevent the crime from being solved and may keep the town firmly in the clutches of its shadowy past.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Set in 1956 in an isolated village in the Scottish Highlands, Scott's slow-paced debut centers on the death of eight-year-old Jamie Fraser, who's found in a canal, the apparent victim of a tragic accident. Hoping to turn the local paper, the Highland Gazette, into something more than a sleepy weekly gossip rag, new editor John McAllister investigates Jamie's death, with the help of part-time typist Joanne Ross, who has a troubled home life, and eager young cub reporter Rob McLean. In one of several less than relevant side plots, a strange man suddenly turns up soon after the discovery of Jamie's body, claiming to be a Polish war refugee from a nearby ship. He initially sought help from the Travelers--the nomadic "walking people" of Ireland and Britain--in escaping an abusive captain, but the villagers are suspicious of all foreigners, particularly anyone with ties to the Travelers. By the end, few will care about the killer's identity. (Aug.)
From the Publisher
"A.D. Scott’s beautifully written debut novel brims with intimate knowledge of the Scottish Highlands and of the dark secrets that lie behind the walls of a quaint rural village. Vividly realized with memorable characters and a stunning setting, A Small Death in the Great Glen is a novel to savor." — Malla Nunn, author of A Beautiful Place to Die

"An impressive first novel. I'd have imagined 1950s Inverness as gray and humorless, but Scott uses the background of religious intolerance, prejudice and petty jealousies, to bring together an engaging cast of warm and colorful characters. The central protagonists, all of whom work for a local newspaper, are interesting, well-rounded and sympathetic. I hope to meet them again." — Ann Cleeves, author of Red Bones

"This atmospheric novel sets you firmly in small town Scotland of the 1950s. The characters are engaging and the suspense mounts along with a growing sense of dread as events surrounding the death of a young boy unfold. Once you start reading, you'll find it hard to put down." — Peter Robinson, New York Times bestselling author of The Price of Love

"This splendid debut mystery has everything going for it…Scott’s writing is engaging, and her plotting Macbethian…The characters of the crusading small-town newspaper are skillfully drawn and will have readers rooting for them unequivocally…captivating on every level" —Booklist, starred review

"Oh what a delight, this book! Almost perfect in every way. A.D. Scott's fine debut novel deserves a spot this year on everyone's 'must-read' list." —William Kent Krueger, author of Heaven's Keep

"This mystery is a delight to unravel, with its lively dialect-spouting players, inhabiting a lavishly described, forbidding but beautiful landscape. A rollickying, cozy escapade" —Kirkus

"Written with humor, compassion and a fine sense of tragedy, A Small Death in the Great Glen is the first in a series by this promising new author" —Bookpage

"A rich portrayal of provincial life in the middle of the 20th century" —Romantic Times Review

"Scott brilliantly evokes the life of a small Scottish town and touches on issues that continue to perplex and horrify us. Score a big victory for "A Small Death." —The Richmond Times-Dispatch

Kirkus Reviews

In the 1950s, the murder of a boy shocks a Scottish town still reeling from the devastations of World War II and rife with resentment of outsiders. This is the first book ina suspenseseries set in the Scottish Highlands, where the author was born and raised.

The daughters of Joanne Ross, typist for The Highland Gazette, mischievously ring doorbells and run, but when they coax little Jamie to play their game, he disappears and later turns up dead. The coroner's examination shows that the boy had been "interfered with" prior to death. Meanwhile, visions of a hoodie crow, a nightmarish, folkloric figure said to peck out the eyes of newborn lambs, haunt Joanne's youngest. It seems her daughters were the last to see "wee Jamie." Indeed, their imaginations have created the crow from the shadowy figure they saw take their classmate. The night of the murder, a Pole jumped ship in the harbor and was aided by a Polish immigrant engaged to the daughter of a local Italian immigrant family, as well as by the Tinkers, the traveling people of Scotland, used to being regarded with suspicion. Prejudice and xenophobia make the Pole the prime suspect, and it appears he'll be condemned on circumstantial evidence. This doesn't sit well for several Highland Gazette staffers, especially veteran journalist McAllister. McAllister indulges his hunches, journalistic and otherwise, to turn up another suspect, the town priest who ran a boxing club for boys back in Glasgow. Meanwhile, Joanne, coping with an abusive, alcoholic spouse, tries to make sense of her youngest daughter's terrified outbursts at the sight of any resemblance to the hoodie crow, outbursts that appall the religiously stolid townies. By the time Joanne and McAllister realize the girls actually are critical witnesses, they've clammed up. The story is a twisted tangle with sometimes unsubstantiated forensics, and it's a bit of a stretch that the girls' status as important witnesses goes largely ignored. But this mystery is a delight to unravel, with its lively dialect-spouting players, inhabiting a lavishly described, forbidding but beautiful landscape.

A rollicking, cozy escapade, too lighthearted to call Tartan noir.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781439154939
  • Publisher: Atria Books
  • Publication date: 8/3/2010
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 229,890
  • Product dimensions: 8.44 (w) x 11.04 (h) x 1.09 (d)

Meet the Author

A. D. Scott was born in the Highlands of Scotland and educated at Inverness Royal Academy and the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. She has worked in theater, in magazines, and as a knitwear designer, and currently lives in Vietnam.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 15 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 15 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 20, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Childish

    I had to look again to make sure this wasn't listed in Y.A. Everything about this book is juvenile. I definitely wouldn't recommend.

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  • Posted April 21, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Unique Mystery Series

    A young boy has been found murdered in a small town in the Scottish Highlands. At first it appeared to be a drowning accident, but further investigation showed that the boy had been sexually assaulted before dying. The murder shakes the town to its core, and brings out the secretiveness and mistrust of outsiders that characterizes small towns and its inhabitants.

    But there are those who are determined to discover the truth and bring the perpetrators to justice. Chief among these is the new editor of the local newspaper, McAllister. Newly established at the paper, he is fighting to change it from a small local weekly to a newspaper worthy of the name. But he has scarce resources. There is Don McLeod, old-timer who knows everyone and all their secrets and who is determined to maintain the paper as it has always been. Rob is the cub reporter, full of vigor but untrained. Joanne Ross, is the part-time typist who is interested in moving into reporting and sees the newspaper as an escape from her abusive husband.

    The case quickly seems to be over when a Polish immigrant is discovered and arrested. Many in the town sigh in relief that all has been righted, but the story is not done. Long-held secrets, going back years, will be brought to light before the full story is over.

    A.D. Scott has created a stunning debut mystery series. The reader is instantly transported to Scotland, but this is not the Scotland of bonny lasses and dashing Highlanders ready for a rousing reel. This is the Scotland of long dreary winters, where tradition is held as iron-clad custom and woe befall those who dare to try to change things from the way they have always been. The truth emerges slowly but surely and the reader turns the last page yearning for a way to return to this area to learn more. This book is recommended for mystery lovers who also enjoy a strong sense of place.

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  • Posted February 4, 2012

    Skillfully spun story, many threads for the reader to gather in

    Life in a small Scottish town in the 1950s . . . Lots of secrets, some revealed only to the reader.

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  • Posted November 23, 2010

    Wonderful mystery, wonderful novel!

    I'm a mystery fiend, and I loved this. The setting is great and the time and conflicts are oddly apropos of contemporary USA & British Isles. I loved the newspaper setting and can't wait to read more about these characters.

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