Murder Solstice (Torquil McKinnon #3), by Keith Moray

Seven stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to Keith Moray and Sapere Books for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

In continuing this unique series, Keith Moray leads the reader back to the Hebrides, where he recounts another Scottish police procedural/mystery full of local flavouring. When Dunshiffin Castle receives new inhabitants, West Uist is abuzz and not entirely for the right reasons. The Daisy Institute has made its presence known and recruiting for their spiritual retreat and enlightenment programme. While many flock to the group, family members have begun complaining that those who join are kept away from outside communication. The leader, the esteemed Dr. Logan Burns, has professed that a local site, the Hoolish Stones, could be part of a larger enlightenment piece, which will be revealed at the summer solstice. With a news crew in West Uist to cover the lead-up to the solstice and all that Burns can tell about his programme, a local historian is ready to debunk the entire Institute however he can. Inspector Torquil ‘Piper’ McKinnon has been running his police detachment effectively, or so he thinks, though he is always being criticised by his superior on the mainland. With all the excitement, a new face turns up in town, Sergeant Lorna Golspie, seconded by the Hebrides Constabulary to report back and clean up what has become a lax detachment. McKinnon does not take well to this and pushes back in his traditional passive aggressive ways, which only angers the mainland even more. The peace and tranquility of West Uist is broken when the aforementioned historian turns up dead, possibly from a drunken fall, but there is something that does not seem right to some of the locals. As McKinnon and his team try to investigate, the uproar with the Daisy Institute increase and tempers flare. A second death forces a complete change in efforts from indifferent acceptance to active interrogation. Tranquility and peacefulness are pushed aside in West Uist, leaving anything but a fertile foundation for enlightenment. The local journalist reminds his readers and McKinnon about the double murder/murder-suicide back at the winter solstice, not six months before. It would seem that Torquil McKinnon and his team are sitting on a powder keg yet again, with no clear means of diffusing it, while also trying to handle Sergeant Golspie and her secondment mission. Another well-paced mystery has Moray convincing me that I chose well in turning to his series. Recommended for those who love police procedural with a different take.

When the publisher approached me to read and review the first few novels in the series, I was hooked by the opening lines. This third novel was more of the same, taking me back into the rural Scottish community Moray developed. Torquil McKinnon remains an interesting character, mixing a reputable career as a member of the constabulary with a strong connection to the locals, some of whom have come to call him a personal friend. There is little backstory here, but McKinnon’s policing and struggles with superiors who are away from West Uist remains central, particularly with the secondment of Golspie. Her presence does impact the novel in interesting ways that the reader will discover as they delve deeper and understand some of the nuances of the plot. The story is full of strong secondary characters, many of whom are new and gain entry into the narrative, shaping it effectively. These individuals, returnees and new folk alike, add humour and banter for the reader, as well as some sinister aspects, which one can hope will return in future novels. The story itself is decent and keeps the narrative flowing well, though I admit to liking it the least of the three novels so far. Discussion of cults and isolation is nothing new, though it did serve a purpose and as a bridge to get through the solstice theme, which Moray handled nicely. While some may be familiar with ‘big city’ and tangential police procedurals, the reader can enjoy this close-knit story that fills the pages with Scottish lore! I’ll gladly read the rest of this series (at five novels so far), if only to learn more about McKinnon and the West Uist community.

Kudos, Mr. Moray, for this wonderful piece. I enjoyed the story and its clipped delivery, which proves a refreshing alternative to much of what I have been reading.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: