Joyce Holms

Allison & Busby £17.99 hbk

Reviewed by Mary Andrea Clarke

The hot potato in question is Scott McKenzie, survivor of a car crash witnessed by Tam Buchanan and his colleague Fizz Fitzgerald, on a hill-walking weekend in the Highlands. Buchanan's promise to the dying driver to take care of Scott is one which soon gives both he and Fizz cause for regret. Not only does their new friend have some very determined people trying to kill him, he is equally determined in seeking out opportunities to indulge in a medicinal dram.

Fizz and Buchanan have their work cut out in evading their pursuers, keeping Scott reasonably sober and piecing together events from his extremely fragmented memory. An amiable, innocent looking old man, more concerned about his next drink than solving the mystery, Scott manages to try the patience of both. One particularly memorable scene has Fizz running herself ragged to protect him from police attention on a train journey through which he peacefully sleeps.
Events rattle along at a cracking pace, keeping the tension going to the end with an imaginative, well constructed plot. The humour comes in steady measure, dependably found in the exasperation of Fizz and Buchanan's friendship as much as in the behaviour of the obliviously vacant Scott. The reader may be as dumbfounded as Buchanan to see Fizz munching a sandwich while trying to keep out of sight of the bad guys but her pragmatism is admirable.
I'm almost ashamed to admit that this is my first encounter with Fizz and Buchanan, now in their seventh adventure. While it left me anxious to read the other six, it was no liability. Joyce Holms does an excellent job of establishing their personalities without labouring over background information. Buchanan's caution, balanced against the "go for it" approach of Fizz, complement each other perfectly.