Book 2 in the Grace Macallan detective series.
Scarred by the Troubles in Belfast, Billy Nelson returns to his loyalist roots following his discharge from army service. But Belfast and the people he knew have changed, and after his gang are responsible for a series of violent attacks on innocent victims, he is forced out of the city and moves in on the drugs business in Edinburgh. Taking on the family who have been the main players in the city for years, a battle for control amongst the criminal underworld of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Belfast ensues, and the balance of power is upset…
Grace Macallan, recently promoted to Superintendent in the Specialist Crime and Counter Terrorism Directorate, has her hands full as a series of incidents leaves a trail of victims. As the old demons of the Troubles come back to haunt her again, can Grace keep the streets of Scotland safe, as well as balancing the conflicting interests of the police in Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Security Services, who all have an interest in Nelson and his paramilitary contacts in Belfast…
Evidence of Death is published on the 22nd February 2018 by Black & White Publishing. Many thanks to Black & White Publishing for having me on the blog tour and providing me with my copy of the book for this review.
Evidence of Death is the second book in the Detective Grace Macallan series, it picks up shortly after the events of Cause of Death. Grace is now the superintendent of the Crime & Counter Terrorism Directorate and soon has a heavy and dangerous case to work on in the form of a drugs-trade (violent) take over in Edinburgh.
Billy Nelson has vivid memories from a young age of the Troubles, he remembers witnessing the destruction of an IRA bomb which killed nine people in a local fish shop. As such he was desperate to join the Ulster Volunteer Force as soon as he was old enough however he ended up leaving Ireland and joining the Parachute Regiment has returned to Belfast. However, this meant he saw more horrific sights, first in Iraq and then Afghanistan whereby saw too many friends and comrades maimed and killed by the opposition. As such, when Billy returns to Ireland he is in a very dark place, however the Ireland he left is no longer in existence now the Troubles are over. It is clear from the outset that Ritchie has created a very volatile character in Billy!
Billy starts to cause a bit too much trouble in Ireland so is sent over to Edinburgh to muscle into the drugs trade and overturn the family who currently run it. What ensues is a very violent takeover which applies great pressure on Grace and her team. There are some violent scenes in this book however they are not at all gratuitous, they are needed to ensure that the plot flows and to demonstrate that both the drugs trade and Grace’s team are facing with regards to Billy and his crew.
The author has created a very authentic cast of characters who are dealing in the shady world of drugs – some that the reader even empathises with to a degree! Also, the general plot of the book comes across as very realistic, I believe that the author’s background goes a long way to giving the fiction an authentic voice.
Evidence of Death is most definitely a slow burn – it draws its reader into its dark and violent world and demonstrates the pressures and frustration that Grace and her team are facing as the horrific incidents keep happening. There are different sides to this story, we hear from Billy and his crew, from those who are impacted by their actions as well as the investigation itself and are privy to the operation of a covert surveillance. This is a multi-layered, complex narrative that needs time to unravel itself – the multiple perspectives gave, at times, a terrifying edge to the events that were unfolding, especially as Billy’s head is an extremely dark place to be!
At the start of the book there is a very useful list of jargon and acronyms – I liked that this was in place as it meant that the book could stay true to its Scottish and Irish dialect without losing its English readers!
I recommend this book but would suggest that you read Cause of Death first as this gives background into both the Troubles in Ireland and to Grace herself; as to how she has ended up in Edinburgh and why everyone isn’t too happy about her superintendent position!
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.