The winner of Good Housekeeping Magazine’s First Novel competition in 2016, Shadow Man is the debut book by Ms. Kirk. Set in Inverness, it follows DI Mahler and DS Ferguson’s investigation of Scottish Daytime TV celebrity Morven Murphy’s murder, days before her marriage to an ex-football star.
Morven is not a sympathetic character and at first, there seems to be many people who might have wanted her dead. But when all those with opportunity have seemingly rock solid alibis, Mahler is short on leads. Morven’s sister Anna, back from San Diego for the wedding, would seem to have more reason than most to see the TV star dead, but does a stolen boyfriend and a lifetime of playing second fiddle to her sister give enough reason for her to resort to murder?
This is a more than competent first novel. The author’s plot is tight and well thought out; there are just enough red herrings to make it interesting, and the characters are well drawn and believable. Lucas Mahler is the archetypal ‘cop with a past’, but he is far from being the cliched alcoholic loner. There are hints of an abusive father, he returned to Inverness from the Met after the death of his partner to make sure his mother, a broken woman, is taken care of and he looks after himself. These are welcome differences from many other cops in crime fiction.
Ms Kirk bravely makes the victim a thoroughly unlikable woman but describes the characters involved in the investigation so sympathetically that we do genuinely care that the villain is caught.
I believe that this is the first in a series of books featuring Mahler and Ferguson and I look forward to reading more from this new voice in Scottish crime fiction.