No Stranger to Death by Janet O'Kane

No Stranger to DeathMy thanks to Janet O’Kane for sending me a copy of her book,  No Stranger to Death, which I really enjoyed reading.  Once I’d started it I just wanted to keep on reading. I was surprised by how intricate and complex the plot is, with several sub-plots and a crowd of characters, all of whom are clearly defined. Set in the Scottish Borders, it also has a strong sense of location and it was refreshing to read a Scottish crime novel that is not set in Edinburgh, Glasgow or even in Shetland. It’s a fast-paced novel that kept me on the edge wanting to find out more.

No Stranger to Death begins with recently widowed Dr Zoe Moreland’s discovery of a body in the remains of a Guy Fawkes bonfire. Westerlea, a fictional village, is a place where everybody knows everyone, but even so it seems everyone has something to hide.  Zoe is new to the village, having moved from there from England to join the Health Centre as a GP and with the help of her new friend, Kate Mackenzie, she soon finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation. This is not a police procedural, although Detective Erskine Mather of Police Scotland is in charge of the investigation.

It’s not only the villagers who have secrets, as there is something in Zoe’s background that she wants to keep to herself and getting involved in a murder investigation is the last thing she wanted:

She had gone back to using her maiden name when she came to Scotland, but would that protect her against people whose job it was to dig up the past of anyone remotely connected with a sensational crime? (page 29)

As Zoe and Kate dig deeper quite a few nasty secrets come to light with almost disastrous consequences and Zoe is in fear of her own life. No Stranger to Death touches on some quite dark themes with an ending that took me by surprise.

Janet O’Kane lives in the Scottish Borders and she is currently writing a follow up to No Stranger to Death, again featuring Zoe Moreland. For more information see her blog – Janet O’Kane: Crime Fiction with a Heart and her Facebook page.

As well as being a really good book in its own right, No Stranger to Death meets the criteria for both the Read Scotland 2014 challenge and the My Kind of Mystery challenge.