Published: 14th September 2017 (Black & White Publishing)
DCI Grace Macallan’s career has hit a serious roadblock. When a covert police operation in Northern Ireland goes badly wrong, she’s faced with a painful decision – lie to save a young officer’s career or tell the truth and ruin her own reputation. For Grace, there can be only one answer.
Reassigned to the newly formed Lothian & Borders Major Crime Team, Grace Macallan is forced to rebuild her career and her reputation. But when a brutal attack on a prostitute turns into a series of murders, the Major Crime Team is under serious pressure. The tabloid headlines are lurid and the team badly needs a result.
With a new life to build in a new city, a new boss as smooth as an 18-year-old malt and a very high profile lawyer as the chief suspect, Grace soon begins to wonder if telling the truth is always the right thing to do.
Cause of Death is the first in a new series featuring DCI Grace Macallan – and what a brilliant, promising start it is. The book opens slowly, introducing the team and giving the reader insight into why Grace has left Northern Ireland with a tail between her legs and setting up a new Major Crime Team in Lothian & Borders. Once the introductions are made, the pace starts to ramp up when the investigations commence and it carries on like this through to the end.
What I really enjoyed about the start is the building up of the team and the introductions to the various characters. Grace doesn’t know what sort of reception she will receive but starts to settle in with her new boss and colleagues. Interspersed within these introductions are flashbacks to the operation that went dreadfully wrong which resulted in Grace’s prompt ejection from Northern Ireland. These sections show (rather than just tell) the reader what Grace went through, her choices she had to make knowing that there would be repercussions either way.
As soon as you start reading this book, it is clear that Peter Ritchie has extensive knowledge in what he is writing about – the authenticity of the narrative just flies off the page. I’ll be honest, I’m not extensively aware of the Troubles that have blighted Northern Ireland’s past therefore this book was an education as much as a thoroughly entertaining read.
There are great characters in this book! I loved Grace, she is a fantastic protagonist who has integrity, wants to do a good job fighting crime but also has a vulnerable side. It is fascinating to see her transition from working in Northern Ireland where the Police were always having to be on alert, scrutinising everyone to a more trusting, comfortable Scottish environment. Another favourite character of mine was Mick Harkins, an old-school cop on the verge of retirement whose reputation precedes him. I enjoyed seeing Grace and Mick’s working relationship build, they are two very strong characters who could easily clash but actually compliment each other brilliantly.
This is a solid start to a new crime series, it kept me gripped from start to end and I look forward to seeing where book two takes DCI Grace Macallan.
Peter Ritchie is a retired senior police officer. The real-world authenticity in his novels comes from vast experience gained working in CID, murder squads, Serious and Regional Crime Squads and Europol. He is a regular lecturer and commentator on the subject of transnational organised crime. In his spare time, Peter also enjoys writing poetry and short stories, painting and volunteering at St Columba’s Hospice and the Bethany Trust.