In Glasgow, DI Alex Morrow and her team have been tasked with low-key, low budget surveillance of Roxanna Fuentecilla. Roxanna has recently moved from London, where the Metropolitan Police suspect she is involved in drug smuggling.
To keep costs low, the surveillance depends on checking recorded CCTV and Roxanna's disappearance isn't immediately noticed. When an outside call reports her as missing and police learn she has left her children behind, the investigation becomes urgent. Roxanna's last phone call is tracked to a field near Helensburgh, just a short journey from Glasgow, but her whereabouts after that remain a mystery.
On the surface, Helensburgh is a genteel Victorian town, which at one time reputedly attracted a quarter of all Britain's millionaires. Underneath the air of respectability is a community with the same social divisions as everywhere else. Local crime baron Mark Barret dominates the underworld of Helensburgh despite being out of the country for most of the book. When Barret persuades Iain Fraser to do a job, to pay off the debt of a friend, Fraser complies but afterwards struggles to cope with what he has done.
Throughout this investigation Alex Morrow has to cope with emotions aroused when she hears that her brother is in hospital after a prison stabbing. With a background of the Scottish independence referendum and the changes to policing in Scotland, Alex must also try to maintain a firm hold over her team and keep them focused.
As the strands of the story are expertly woven together, we meet a mixed cast of characters that range from the out and out criminal element to the seemingly respectable; from the brutal Tommy Watson, hard man Wee Paul and the increasingly confused and agitated Iain Fraser to his distant cousin restaurant owner Boyd Fraser and disdainful solicitor Delahunt. It is a book where family is important in both positive and negative ways, in which people sometimes cling together just to ease the loneliness and where the rule of Mark Barrett is absolute. The final scene of grannies Annie and Eunice reaching out and clutching each other through their tears sticks in the memory.
This is the fifth in the DI Alex Morrow series and is well worth the read, whether or not you know the earlier books. The book combines a pacy story that will keep you reading with subtleties that raise it well above the average.