Book review: Shadow Man by Margaret Kirk

Shadow Man by Margaret Kirk
Shadow Man by Margaret Kirk

When a queen of daytime TV is found stabbed to death the day before her wedding, the trail to find her killer is more complex than the police could ever have imagined.

Welcome to a gripping and atmospheric crime debut that is putting both its Scottish author and the cosmopolitan and beautiful Highland city of Inverness firmly on the reading map.

Margaret Kirk won last year’s Good Housekeeping Novel Writing competition and her brilliant, cat-and-mouse murder thriller – a classy, classic whodunit packed with nail-biting suspense, fascinating characters and intriguing plot twists – is an exciting new addition to the tartan noir canon.

When Morven Murray, the daytime TV star with ‘a blonde earth-goddess persona’ is found butchered in her hotel room in Inverness, only hours before her wedding to former professional footballer Ross Campbell, suspicion immediately falls on her sister Anna.

Anna was heard arguing with Morven not long before she was killed, but Campbell is rumoured to have had rows with his wife-to-be as well. Ex-Met Detective Inspector Lukas Mahler, still reeling from the death of a close friend and struggling to keep tabs on his mother who has mental health problems, is put on the case and his trusty ‘copper’s gut’ convinces him that something is amiss.

Meanwhile, on the other side of Inverness, police informant Kevin Ramsay is run over repeatedly by a car in a brutal, gangland-style execution. But what exactly did he know and is his death linked to something that happened in the past?

As Mahler digs deeper into both cases, he discovers that Morven’s life was closer to the Inverness underworld than anyone imagined. Caught in a deadly game of cat and mouse, is he hunting one killer, or two?

Inverness provides an exhilarating backdrop to what promises to be an enthralling new series starring a compelling lead player. Mahler – a gutsy, determined and yet highly compassionate loner – is a man for all seasons, his working life constantly compromised by the needs of his sick mother.

Kirk has Mahler well and truly nailed in this impressive opener which is written with style, subtlety and bags of visual drama. A return trip to the Highlands will be eagerly anticipated.

(Orion, paperback, £13.99)