Top positive review
11 people found this helpful
on 31 May 2014
This first novel by Jaycee Brown has already been compared to books by Peter May such as The Black House because they are both set on the island of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. However The Machair Crowlacks the brooding intensity of May’s work, which glowers like the sky over a Scottish mountain. Instead it’s a much more meat-and-potatoes thriller, more Tom Clancy than Georges Simenon atmospherics – and none the worse for it. Brown’s heroine Helen Riley is a Jane Bond/Ms Bourne type investigating the death of a government animal disease scientist on behalf of his widow. The authorities are covering up. What Riley finds out also provides payback for a tragedy from her own past — indeed, one of the satisfactions of this book is how Brown skilfully weaves Riley’s backstory as damaged goods into the narrative. We understand why she is the way she is.
Brown has clearly done a lot of research into latest developments into weaponised technology from invisibility suits to remote control warfare, which is a pleasure to absorb.
Sure, he makes some newbie mistakes such as switching viewpoints within the same chapter and, confusingly, switching between the first and third person in alternate chapters. And there are long descriptions of island countryside and room interiors, which do nothing to move the story on. (It’s not for nothing that Hollywood calls scene descriptions “the stuff in-between” – it’s the dialogue which counts.)
Any BBC Scotland TV producer reading this review should snap up the rights to The Machair Crow; it would make a perfect two-parter for a Sunday evening. And Brown himself looks as if he has a franchise on his hands.