This is the eighth novel featuring DI Marjory Fleming, based at the headquarters of Galloway Constabulary in the fictional town of Kirkluce. Kirkluce lies on the A75, roughly half way between Newton Stewart and the busy ferry terminals of Cairnryan and Stranraer, and not far from the real - but much smaller - village of Glenluce.
It's a strong point of the series that Marjory is an utterly convincing character. She followed her late father into the police force, but married Bill Fleming, a local farmer, and although there is a deep bond between them the conflicting pressures of domestic and professional life are often problematic. They have two children, Catriona (Cat) and Cameron (Cammie), both of whom are young adults at the time of the present novel.
Marnie Bruce suffers from hyperthymesia - a condition which enables her to remember everything she has ever seen. If a memory is triggered, she re-lives the past as if watching a film - except for one night, 31 October 1993, when she was 11 years old. She remembers coming home from celebrating Hallowe'en, but her mind is blank from that point until she was found by a neighbour the following morning, covered in blood from a severe head injury. And her mother had vanished completely. Now, following the breakdown of a relationship, she decides to return to Galloway in search of answers. A young PC Fleming was part of the initial response to the neighbour's call for assistance on that black day in 1993, and Marnie looks to her for help. But that raises difficult problems for Margery, because to provide any sort of explanation for the events of 1993 she would need to reveal information about a crime committed twenty years earlier, and that information is very definitely not for public consumption ....
To provide further details of the plot would be unfair to prospective readers, but it's perhaps worth mentioning that the cast of characters is quite substantial. All of them are introduced in the early chapters, but bearing in mind the 40-year period explored in the novel, readers who share my capacity for confusion may find it helpful to list the names and relationships as they appear, especially if they expect to spread their reading over several days. That's not in any sense a criticism of the plot; it hangs together very well, but it IS quite complex and every character has a necessary part to play.
The broad setting will be familiar to anyone who has spent time in Galloway. In the East, it begins at Clatteringshaws Loch, in the heart of the Galloway Forest Park, lying on `The Queen's Road' (the A712 between New Galloway and Newton Stewart) and stretches in the West to the shores of Loch Ryan, a few miles north of Stranraer. In between, there are miles of remote and beautiful countryside. If you don't know the area, it might be worth spending half-an-hour on Google. Galloway is definitely NOT Home Counties rural, and an understanding of the remote and sometimes desolate landscape will help you to appreciate the `feel' of the story.
Aline Templeton seems to me to be seriously underrated. This really is an excellent crime novel, combining a sensitive portrayal of the kind of people to whom Galloway is home with a sharp and original plot offering plenty of `page-turner' moments. Hyperthymesia was only identified as a specific condition in 2006, and so far as I'm aware it has never previously featured in a crime novel. There are other very contemporary themes in the tale, as the reader will discover. What's not to like? Well, a couple of other characters turn out to have obsessive tendencies, and whilst by no means outside the bounds of possibility I didn't feel wholly convinced about the consequences stemming from these tendencies - but that's a minor criticism when weighed against the many good things in this book. I thoroughly enjoyed `Bad Blood' and have no hesitation in recommending it to other crime buffs!
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