Years ago our son created a short funny routine about which was better, shampoo or cream rinse. The gist of the routine, of course delivered in a perfectly timed sequence, was first that shampoo was better because it cleansed the hair; immediately followed by a rebuttal that no, cream rinse was better because it made the hair silky and smooth.
It was so long ago, I can’t remember why the whole routine came into being, but it has been one of those lasting jokes that are probably funny only to those who were there when if first came into being. It has become our answer to many issues of “which is best?” when the answer clearly lies with the individual.
That’s what I think about the issue of police procedurals vs. cozies in the mystery genre. For me, personally, I enjoy both. With the cozy I love getting the opportunity to have a puzzle set before me and then the challenge of trying to solve the puzzle before the solution presents itself. Of course, it takes a well-plotted cozy to create enough doubt about the solution that an experienced reader doesn’t almost automatically leap to the correct conclusion.
On the other hand, there is the police procedural. While there may be some mystery as to who the perpetrator is and how the police are going to discover him or her; the story is much more about moving toward a solution, eliminating dead ends, etc. as the investigation hones in on the guilty party. Yes, there are still elements of mystery in the Police Procedural, but there is more steady movement in a straight line toward a satisfying conclusion.
I recently had the opportunity to read the second in a new Police Procedural series that takes place in Scotland. I like to alternate between cozies and police procedurals, with a few other types of books thrown in for good measure, so that I don’t feel like I’m reading books that are too much the same. This series, featuring DI Clare MacKay is a Scottish series written by Marion Todd. The most recent book in the series is In Plain Sight which is due to be released on February 20, 2020. Here’s my review for those of you who are interested.
This is the second in the new Scottish police procedural series featuring DI Clare MacKay. While the mystery stands alone and is complete within this book, the background stories within the novel are largely carry-ons from the first book in the series. For anyone looking to start a new series, they will benefit from reading the first book in the series before starting this one as much of the character development is in the first novel.
The central story of this book is a child abduction that takes place just as Clare and the community is getting ready to participate in a fun run for charity. To complicate matters, an environmental protest group lays across the starting line in protest of the company that is funding the run. Clare points out that their protest made the abduction easier, although she doesn’t really thing they were part of a grand plot.
From that point in the story, it is a straight police procedural, with Clare and her officers following leads to try and locate the baby. To increase their concern, they learn the baby has a heart defect and requires medication. The powers that be feel a Detective Chief Inspector needs to be brought in, and they tap Anthony McAvetie, with whom Clare and her sergeant have a negative history. This increases the tension, although there is little information provided in this novel about the specifics for the ill feelings. It also complicates matters that McAvetie’s primary focus is on obtaining the new Superintendent position, and to that end pushes to have Clare reach a quick solution to the kidnapping.
When McAvetie determines Clare isn’t moving fast enough to insure he gets the promotion he calls in a second DI. There is a brief exchange of tension between the new Di and Clare, but they soon start moving together to work toward the return of the baby. Along the way there are several deaths as Clare and her officers begin to close in on the perpetrator.
Overall, this is a good police procedural, well written and well plotted. The pacing is good as information helps propel you through the book. As with the first novel in the series, this book is one where it’s easy to find yourself continuing to read “just one more chapter” or to rush back to it if life has interrupted your reading.
There are two small improvements I would recommend. First, highlighting more of the personalities of the secondary characters to enrich the background of the story. Second, there is a rather abrupt ending in the final chapter that, while perhaps slightly foreshadowed could have added more to the story if there had been more of a buildup. As written, the struggles Clare apparently has in her personal life are treated more as an afterthought than a well developed part of the story.
I recommend this book and this series to anyone who likes police procedurals with the caution that to maximize enjoyment they should be read in order. My thanks to Canelo Publishing and NetGalley for providing me with an Advanced Digital Read copy in exchange for an unbiased review.
I’m publishing this blog a couple of weeks in advance so you will have time to order the book from your independent book seller or get on the waiting list at your library. If they don’t have the first book in the series, ask them to get it and start there while you wait for your name to reach the top of any waiting list you may find yourself inhabiting. One other positive here, Clare MacKay is a strong female protagonist, so if you are looking for a series that is a good representation of capable women in the workplace, this one is for you. On that note I’ll wish you Happy Reading.