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Lamb to the Slaughter by Aline Templeton

Lamb to the Slaughter

by Aline Templeton

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A lamb is dead. It isn't what you might think.

Although this is the fourth installment in Aline Templeton's police procedural series set in Scotland, this is the first book in the series I've read. I'll certainly be trying another.

-- What's it about? --

An old man is shot on his doorstep, inspiring fear in the usually peaceful residents of Kirkluce. Could his death have anything to do with the proposed supermarket development that's been bitterly dividing residents? Andrew Carmichael had the power to prevent the development, but would he have done so?

Meanwhile, teenage bikers are terrorising another elderly lady to breaking point, and someone has left a dead sheep outside the Craft Centre. Why? Was it a warning? If so, to who?

When a second, apparently random, shooting results in a second victim, Kirkluce is aflame with rumours of a sniper and DI Fleming struggles to find a motive that will make sense of everything. When the truth finally appears, no-one will believe it...

-- What's it like? --

'Lamb to the Slaughter' is a slow burner that becomes intensely puzzling as the police struggle to develop connections between the two deaths, forcing everyone involved to wonder whether there are any. The horror of a potentially undiscriminating sniper is palpable and even affects the police officers. The initial death's placement within the story feels abrupt and random, but I wondered in retrospect whether that was deliberate and designed to reinforce its shocking and seemingly inexplicable nature. As I grew familiar with the series' characters I felt more involved in the storyline, but what really made the difference - and inspired me to stay up reading until 1am to finish the book - was the startling second murder.

Although this killing perplexes police and readers alike, the suspect pool gradually grows, largely as a result of inaccurate alibis, and some potential motives are unearthed, alongside some effective red herrings. There's a suitably varied range of suspects, all of whom have just enough to dislike about them (or in the case of some candidates, rather a lot to dislike about them) to make them plausible suspects. The final reveals are surprisingly abrupt and utterly chilling, though the penultimate twist perhaps loses a little impact in the way it is told. The ending neatly wraps up most outstanding queries, though by no means all, and may dissatisfy those who crave moral justice more than they desire legal redress.

Crucial to the plot is Tam MacNee, officially signed off from work after a significant head trauma gained in book three, but unofficially digging around at the very heart of the case. While he's both a blessing and a headache to his DI, MacNee is an excellent source of much of the book's humour, from slinking out of a pub in fond hopes that he hasn't been spotted (he has), to attempting to get an old lady to confess (she doesn't), to sizing up an adulterous colleague within seconds of returning to work (and ruining the adulterer's day). While the final solution is very dark, the journey contains many moments of grin-inducing levity.

-- Final thoughts --

I really enjoyed this, once I got to know the characters a little and the pace escalated slightly. DI Fleming and DS MacNee are both wonderfully human and brilliantly 'normal' - neither has a drink problem, both have happy marriages, and DI Fleming is struggling to control her wayward teenage daughter. Their working partnership is effective, but neither is a Sherlock Holmesian figure who stands alone and the other officers, who are similarly convincing, make small but valuable contributions to the investigation.

I enjoyed the strong focus on procedure underpinning the investigation and will definitely be looking to read the earlier books in the series. ( )
  brokenangelkisses | May 18, 2016 |
Earlier this year I identified a couple of Templeton novels I hadn't read and managed to snare this one at the local library. If you like your British police procedurals carefully plotted, with real life characters, then, like me, you'll enjoy this one.

The basic scenario is that a supermarket chain has its eye on the small market town of Kirkluce. They have identified the location for the next store in their expansion programme. It will mean the demolition of a number of small shops and the owner of those premises is opposed to it and has vowed he won't sell.
Of course the town is divided with some seeing the building of a supermarket as a great move, denigrating those who oppose the development as living in the past. The local Councillor, who also happens to be a land agent who can see fees coming his way, is all for the development.

The first murder occurs when Marjory Fleming's sergeant Tam MacNee is on sick leave and unlikely to be back at work any time soon. Marjory misses Tam as a sounding board and an ideas man, and Tam himself is resentful of what he considers the unnecessary extension of his sick leave. Marjory bans her team from spilling information to Tam, but the last thing she needs is him taking matters into his own hands and carrying out his own investigation.

I've enjoyed every one of these books. The characters are great and the scenarios taken from the issues of social and economic change facing most small towns. The interaction between members of the police team is realistic and I've enjoyed watching Marjory's family develop. I'm looking forward to reading #6. ( )
  smik | Jul 2, 2012 |
First Line: "No," the woman said.

There is trouble brewing in Detective Inspector Marjory Fleming's small community of Kirkluce in southwestern Scotland. The town is fiercely divided over the plans of a superstore chain to open there. Half the citizens welcome the convenience and the possibility of more jobs; the other half knows that it would sound the death knell to most of the small shops on the High Street. Even farmers would be affected, since they would be forced to accept the much lower prices the new superstore would insist upon in exchange for their meat and produce.

If that's not enough, there's a group of teenaged boys who have too much time on their hands and not enough direction given them at home. They've taken to terrorizing an elderly lady on the outskirts of town, running amok on their motorcycles and doing damage.

When an old man who was opposed to the superstore is found gunned down on his doorstep and a second villager is the apparent victim of a random shooting, the press fans the flames of panic by announcing that there's a sniper on the rampage in Kirkluce, and the once bustling streets become deserted.

"Big Marge" has a lot on her plate trying to find the killer... or could it be two killers? Her right hand man is still out on sick leave, although the Robbie Burns-spouting Tam MacNee is doing his own investigating on the sly (and creating even more problems for his boss as a result). The most likely suspects seem to have iron clad alibis, while those who appear guilty simply cannot be. It's all down to good, solid, meticulous police work to get all the facts and put them together to find the truth.

For those of you who tend to steer clear of police procedurals or private detective stories because of blood and gore, there's no need to do that here. Aline Templeton depends upon character, motive and situation, not a proliferation of dismembered bodies, to weave a tale that will keep you up till the wee hours of the morning.

Her characterization is one of the main reasons why I enjoy her books so much. Her DI Marjory Fleming stands alongside Ann Cleeves' Vera Stanhope, Judith Cutler's Fran Harman, and Elly Griffiths' Ruth Galloway as my favorite British female crime fighters. Marjory is a force to be reckoned with on the job, but she has a husband who's a hardworking farmer, two teenaged children who can have her ripping out her hair, and elderly parents she wants to keep a loving eye on. Her constables and sergeants are also an interesting lot with their own foibles and intrigues. Watching all these characters work together is a delight.

Templeton does such a great job of misdirection that, by book's end, I couldn't believe that I hadn't seen the solution coming. But wait! Two of her most trusted investigators don't agree with Marjory's conclusions? Could Marjory be wrong? No, she can't be-- all the pieces have finally locked into the right pattern. Up until the very last sentence, the ending is an emotional rollercoaster-- and absolutely brilliant.

If you haven't read one of Aline Templeton's Detective Inspector Marjory Fleming books, you're, without doubt, missing some seriously good writing. ( )
  cathyskye | May 8, 2012 |
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For Milena with fondest love.
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"No," the woman said.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 034092229X, Paperback)

In the pretty and tranquil market town of Kirkluce, the proposed development of a chain superstore has divided the population in an increasingly bitter feud. The low-level aggression of bored youth that is generally tolerated has become sinister. The bloodied carcass of a sheep abandoned in the streets is more than just unpleasant vandalism, and teenage bikers have begun terrorizing a woman to breaking. When an old man is brutally gunned down on his doorstep and a second victim is killed in what seems a random shooting, the fear in the town becomes tangible. Detective Inspector Marjory Fleming will not accept that the crimes are motiveless, but she struggles to make sense of the two murders. How are they connected, and will she find the perpetrators before more violence erupts?

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:12 -0400)

"In the pretty and peaceful market town of Kirkluce a proposed superstore development has divided the population in an increasingly bitter war. The low-level aggression of bored youth that is generally tolerated has become sinister. The bloodied carcass of a sheep abandoned in the streets is more than just unpleasant vandalism and teenage bikers, terrorising a woman to breaking point, are impossible to control." "When a second victim is killed in what seems a random shooting, the fear in the town becomes tangible. DI Fleming will not accept that the crimes are motiveless, but she struggles to make sense of the two murders, when nothing makes sense any more and no one will believe anything. Not even the truth."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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