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A Double Death on the Black Isle (edition 2011)

by A. D. Scott

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736164,469 (3.74)6
Member:kellyslist
Title:A Double Death on the Black Isle
Authors:A. D. Scott
Info:Atria Books (2011), Edition: Original, Kindle Edition, 388 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:mystery, historical fiction, Scotland, 1950s, journalism, series, 2013

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A Double Death on the Black Isle by A. D. Scott

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Only read about half. Just couldn't get into it.
  ritaer | Jun 15, 2013 |
I adored this mystery. It’s about a double murder that takes place in 1957 in the Scottish Highlands, and the people trying to get to the bottom of what happened are reporters on the small staff of the Highland Gazette. Joanne Ross, 31, is a former typist for the paper and is now a journalist along with Rob McLean, a good friend although he is ten years younger.

Joanne is a single mother of two girls, Annie and “Wee Jean”; she is also a battered wife who finally walked out on her husband three months earlier. She is attracted to the newspaper’s editor, John McAllister, and only Joanne is not aware that McAllister is also attracted to her. Don McLeod, the charming and gruff deputy editor, tries to play matchmaker between them, but this is 1957 in “a paternalistic Presbyterian rigid class-structured society” and still-married women couldn’t just be taking up with other men. Moreover, Joanne suffers a bit from "battered women's syndrome" - full of fear, blaming herself, and lacking self-confidence.

There are some other characters we get to know on the newspaper staff, but among the chief protagonists I would be remiss not to mention the Highlands themselves. As McAllister observes, the lochs, the glens, the firths and the coast made the town what it is and the people who they are. The descriptions of the countryside, with the mountain Ben Wyvis looming over the Black Isle, help us understand the connection to the land felt by the region’s inhabitants, who, as the author explains, tilled the fields, cleared the ditches, and named every nook and cranny, every woodland, and every burn:

"The Black Isle, a peninsula surrounded on three sides by the Cromarty, the Moray,and the Beauly firths, was an island of the mind rather than geography. Picturesque in parts, forbidding in places, it was quite unlike the surrounding glens of heather and lochs. … There were sacred wells, prehistoric standing stones, a castle or two, the remains of Iron Age settlements, and a history teeming with stories and characters.”

You get such a wonderful sense of place from descriptions like those, and from the colorful patois spoken by the characters – I love this exchange, for example, when Rob goes to interview one of the local “Travelers,” itinerant workers who help with the harvest:

"’Wise move, staying for a whiley more.’

‘You think so?’ He was pleased to have Jimmy’s opinion. He was also one of the few who understood that beneath the rough, menacing exterior there lay a very rough, menacing interior, but intelligence with it.

‘Aye. You know what they say about big fishes and small lochs. I suppose you’re wanting information?’”

In the story, a couple of the Travelers, or Tinkers, as they are known, are accused of one of the murders. (The Travelers, it should be understood, are not the same as gypsys; they are Scottish, with ancient names, as the author notes: Stuart, McPhee, Macdonald, and so on:

"Their ancient culture of stories and singing and piping, their nomadic way of life, marked them as different, yet they were as much a part of Scotland as the glens and lochs and mountains.”

But there was much prejudice against the Travelers, and just being accused was often enough to assure a conviction. At the other end of the social spectrum, the richest and most powerful family in the area has also come under suspicion. Muddying up the waters, the daughter in this family, Patricia Ord MacKenzie, is one of Joanne's oldest friends.

So many questions remained unanswered though, that it's hard to sort out what really happened. It takes a lot of intrepid footwork by Joanne, Rob, Hec the photographer, and the others, to try to get to the bottom of of the murders. And while the pace is slow and steady, the author is not above tossing in red herrings and twists.

Evaluation: I thoroughly enjoyed this opportunity to learn more about the history and culture of the Scottish Highlands while getting to know the delightful characters of the Highland Gazette. This is book two in the series, but it is my first. Apparently there are more books to come, and I can’t wait! ( )
  nbmars | Oct 16, 2012 |
Book Title: "A Double Death on the Black Isle”
Author: A.D. Scott
Published By: Atria
Age Recommended: 18+
Reviewed By: Kitty Bullard
Raven Rating: 5

Review: What is it about Scotland that makes it such an amazing backdrop for mysteries, thrillers, and exotic stories? It’s not at all hard to imagine the setting for this amazing mystery with the way A.D. Scott writes. The writing is somewhat Shakesperean in nature and the words just flow perfectly.
Make a point to pick up this awesome mystery, you won’t regret it! ( )
  GMTAPublishing | Aug 2, 2012 |
First Line: Cycling across the suspension bridge over the wide, fast-flowing river Joanne Ross looked down-- no, no bodies.

The people living on the Black Isle in Scotland are oftentimes a contentious bunch. The Tinkers are trusted by no one, but their services are badly needed because so many Highlanders died a decade before in the Second World War. The fishermen there have nothing in common with the farmers, and the villages keep themselves apart from the town. When two deaths occur on the same day that involve the same families from the same estate, all the inhabitants of the Black Isle have theories as to what really happened.

Joanne Ross has been given the prize assignment of reporting on these murders, but she feels there may be a conflict of interest. After all, the woman at the very heart of both deaths is one of her closest friends. Joanne knows the story could be her big break, and as a woman-- and a single mother-- in the Highlands of the 1950s a good job like this is almost unheard of. As the staff of The Highland Gazette begin their investigations, secrets are uncovered that will change this remote corner of Scotland.

Author A.D. Scott has said that she is "a huge fan of writers who can transport you to a time and place where you feel you know a landscape intimately from the author’s description – even if it is a landscape completely foreign to you." This is exactly the type of book she writes. The staff of the newspaper are so well-drawn that one feels as though one's leaving a group of dear friends by the time the last page is turned. They also make working on a small town newspaper staff in the Highlands of that era come to life.

Both murders kept my interest throughout the book, and the fact that the second one had no firm resolution except in individual readers' minds made me smile. Not everything in life is tied up with a pretty bow at the end, and I do like that to happen occasionally in the books that I read.

Two characters shine especially brightly in A Double Death in the Great Glen: Joanne Ross, a woman who's lived in an abusive marriage for ten years before sending her husband packing. Not only does she have to contend with a man who enjoys using her as a punching bag, but she has to contend with society's and her family's opinions as she tries to begin a new and better life for herself and her daughters. She is an endearing-- and sometimes maddening-- character. Joanne refuses to behave the way that we readers would like, but she is slowly coming around to a true sense of her own worth and capabilities.

The second character is Joanne's friend, Patricia Ord Mackenzie. In turns charming, intimidating, manipulative and vulnerable, she always remains enigmatic-- and extremely intriguing. So much so in fact, that I wouldn't mind at all if she appeared again in a future book.

A.D. Scott immerses her readers in the lives of her characters and in the landscape and mindset of the Highlands of Scotland in the 1950s. There is so much to savor: mother-daughter relationships, family loyalty, intricately plotted murders.... If you have yet to savor a book written by this talented writer, I urge you to do so. Once you've finished one of her stories, it takes a while to return to the present day! ( )
  cathyskye | Mar 27, 2012 |
Usually in a murder mystery, we have the death(s) in question, and then follow the sleuth—cop, private eye, or interested bystander—as he or she single-mindedly goes about solving the crime. In this uniquely written book, we do not follow the usual rules.
It would be witty and not too far from the truth to describe this book as a Russian novel set in rural Scotland in 1957. We follow Joanne, who we believe to be the main character; then we follow Patricia, to whom we switch our focus; then we have Rob, McAllister, Sinclair…all of whose stories blend seamlessly as each plays their part in both the two deaths that occurred on the same day among people associated with same farm, but miles apart. We get a tremendously involved picture of Scottish society and morés fifty years ago (a place where a man could beat his wife with impunity!) which in itself makes for a pleasant and satisfying read. Since this is an insular community, everyone has some bearing, some interest, some relation to the deceased, and to how they came to their ends.
This is a quiet book, calm and relaxed, yet the author manages, toward the end (as a good mystery writer should) to throw us—again, calmly and with catlike dignity—for a couple of serious loops. We’ve all read books that we couldn’t wait to finish to get on to the next one; but “A Double Death on the Black Isle” is like a visit with an old friend in front of a fireplace on cold wintry night. It’s a place you won’t want to leave.
Reviewed by Elliott Capon, author of “Prince of Horror” published by Suspense Publishing an imprint of Suspense Magazine ( )
  suspensemag | Oct 12, 2011 |
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Nothing is ever quite at peace on Scotland's Black Isle-the Traveling people are forever at odds with the locals, the fishermen have nothing in common with the farmers, and the villagers have no connection with the town. But when two deaths occur on the same day, involving the same families from the same estate- the Black Isle seems as forbidding as its name.… (more)

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