Article published on October 8, 2015.
The first chapter in this thriller grabbed me immediately and I expected a tense exciting read. Sadly I was disappointed.
Grace and Mac return from their honeymoon, and while Mac goes shopping, Grace opens the flat to find a dead man in their kitchen with a head injury seemingly due to a fall while attempting a burglary. Most people would panic and immediately phone the police. Not Grace, she calmly photographed the body from all angles. The first of many strange actions from a rather feisty woman. Frustrated at the lack of progress from the police in their search for the victim’s identification Grace began her own investigation triggered by the discovery of a scribbled note among the unopened wedding gifts. Impulsively and without a word to Mac she turned detective heading off across the country and the channel on her own investigation. As a photo journalist she has some of the necessary qualifications but this was the point where the story began to lose coherence.
Many very unlikely coincidences occurred as Grace chased around Europe following tenuous leads. Taking wild risks that no intelligent woman would, her only contact was Ewan, a journalist on a Scottish paper. Despite strange men following her, mysterious and frightening happenings – all told to Ewan – at no time did he ever suggest that she ought to contact the police or even take care. Her husband’s texts and contact efforts are ignored as she blithely knocks on doors, visits shady restaurants and generally puts herself in danger.
The chapters switch between Grace’s efforts and a case that Ewan and his boss are pursuing. The two may appear unconnected but it is fairly obvious that in time that will change.
The characterisation is hazy and difficult to relate to. Between identical twins and people using false names the middle of the book was rather confusing. The behaviour of the characters whether good or evil lacked conviction. The language was so inoffensive as to be bland. In moments of great danger is it normal to remain so polite and well mannered? Occasionally this was laughable.
Towards the end of the book when the denouement (which I did guess) occurred the story gathered speed becoming tense and fairly exciting but was let down by being rather contrived.
This writer has three other books published which are seemingly well received. I suspect this was an earlier attempt which has lain in a drawer (as is common with many writers). What a pity some skilful editing was not used to turn it into the good read promised in the opening.
Sheila A Grant, Ayrshire
Personal read *
Group read *
CITY OF STRANGERS by Louise Millar
Macmillan hbk(8 Oct. 2015)