Calum MacLeod is a reporter for the Inverness Courier and had been writing for SHOTS since its early days. In 2009 the Highland and Islands Media Awards' judging panel awarded him “Highly Commended Feature Writer of the Year”.
Sandstone Press, a fairly new publisher based in the small Highland town of Dingwall (home to Scottish Division One giant killers Ross County, footie fans!) has been dipping a tentative toe in the world of fiction.
For the company’s first thriller, however, Ron McMillan does not so much dip a toe in the waters as dive in head first with a Greg Louganis style flourish.
Alex Brodie and his assistant sit in their office in London, as skint as any hardboiled private eye you care to name. Except Alex is a photo-journalist, not a detective, and rescue is seemingly round the corner with a lucrative offer that will take him back to his old stamping grounds of Korea.
It is an offer that inevitably proves too good to be true and when Brodie balks baulks at being party to fraud on a massive scale, he is implicated in murder (providing a grim explanation for the title) and forced on the run while he looks for a way to clear his name, bring the culprits to book and still end up solvent at the end.
For his first entry into the criminal world, McMillan gets everything right. Brodie is a sympathetic but flawed protagonist, falling too easily into bed with prostitutes for example, despite carrying a torch for an old flame, but with his own moral core. He is also a rather good guide to the exotic, and for most of us the unknown, territory of South Korea, combining an insider’s knowledge with an outsider’s insight, but doing so without bogging down a story that remains lean and pacy, just what you want a thriller to be.
Extra kudos to Sandstone for a striking effect simple cover – a blood splattered Korean flag.
Nice debut, Mr McMillan. Now let’s see what you do next.