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Skeleton Blues


Author: Paul Johnston
Published: 31st December 2015
Reviewed: 07 January 2016
What Milo Saw by Virginia Macgregor

Read more at: http://www.london24.com/entertainment/book_review_what_milo_saw_by_virginia_macgregor_1_3750981
Copyright © LONDON24

Copy kindly supplied by Severn House Publishers in return for an honest review.

  5 out of 5 stars  


Ex-cop Quint Dalrymple discovers there is something very rotten in the independent city-state of Edinburgh in this near-future dystopian thriller.

Edinburgh, spring 2034. The weather’s balmy, there’s a referendum on whether to join a reconstituted Scotland coming up – and a tourist is found strangled. As usual, maverick detective Quint Dalrymple is called in to do the Council of City Guardians’ dirty work.

For the first time in his career, Quint is stumped by the complexity of the case. An explosion at the City Zoo is followed by the discovery of another body – and the prime suspect is nowhere to be found. Can Quint and his sidekick, Guard commander Davie, put a stop to the killings before the city erupts into open violence? Are the leaders of other Scottish states planning to take over Edinburgh, or is the source of unrest much closer to home? Quint must race to pull the threads together before he becomes one of the numerous skeletons on display …

In 2034 the independent city-state of Edinburgh is still as apocalyptic as it was when I first encountered Quint Dalrymple in The Body Politic back in the 2020s. The City Guardians have relaxed the regime somewhat, pardoned various miscreants and allow the citizens more freedoms than were ever offered in the previous years, but some things haven’t changed.  The City is still a hotspot for tourists who still take priority over the ordinary Citizens.  Conditions for the Citizens haven’t really improved greatly and Quint Dalrymple is still sceptical about the Guardians and distrusts most people in power.

When a precious tourist is found strangled in Citizen accommodation Dalrymple is brought in to investigate and track down the missing Citizen lives there.  It’s made quite clear to him that he must find the missing woman and not abuse the power that the Council of Guardians are bestowing upon him.  
Whilst Dalrymple is working on this case there is an uprising brewing, a referendum is imminent, the Council of Guardians want the city-state to join the reconstituted Scotland and voting has been made mandatory.  They expect all Citizens to vote yes, but not all of them want to, some are willing to fight for what they believe would be a better leadership and quality of life.  

For fans of the Dalrymple series, rest assured the pairing of Quint and Davie (aka Hume 253) makes a return.  The dynamic duo are as usual on good form, the satire of their exchanges makes for good reading as well as moments to chuckle out loud.  Despite the passing of time, there is no real change to Quint Dalrymple, he’s still cynical, he’s still a Blues fan and he’s still harbouring a grudge against Billy Geddes and the Guardians.  

Johnston’s writing is as brilliant as ever, references to Classics such as Plato and Homer give away subtle hints to both the intelligence of the author as well as his studies (ancient and modern Greek at university).  There is skill in writing a futuristic setting that can also incorporate “old world” attributes, the utopian Glasgow that is hinted at (which features in The Blood Tree) contrasted with the wild borders areas emphasises the richly descriptive quality of the writing.  
The characters are good, Dalrymple is the perfect protagonist, disillusioned with the regime, sceptical, argumentative and not afraid to speak his mind.  Davie (Hume 253) as well as being a loyal Auxiliary and Guard Commander, is Quint’s best friend, shows a caring side but also can be relied on for the necessary muscle or brute force.  Other interesting characters include Hector Dalrymple, an ex Guardian and Quint’s father, and Billy Geddes, a former Auxiliary who Quint regarded as colleague and friend. 

The pace of the book is good, the storyline is gripping and so sweeps you along with it, if you can manage to put it down between chapters I suspect you would  be able to carry on without much issue at all.  

Despite this being a continuation of the series of books with Dalrymple, this story really could be read as a stand alone book.  Granted, having read the other books in the series the city-state of Edinburgh and its Council will make more sense, but this certainly will not detract from the enjoyment.

I would have no hesitation to recommend this to fans of Johnston’s previous works, especially fans of the Dalrymple series, as well as fans of Fiction and Mystery genres.  But be aware, this isn’t just a typical run on the mill mystery story, this is an intelligently written, highly addictive book!

I would like to thank Severn House Publishers for the copy of this book in return for an honest review and if you would like to buy a copy, this book was published in Hardback on 31st December 2015, but I hope other formats will be available soon, a copy can be purchased here Skeleton Blues (UK Hardback)

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