Monday, November 19, 2012

Hand for a Hand

Hand for a Hand is author T. Frank Muir’s introduction to North American readers.  The book is part of a crime series that also introduces Scottish DCI Andy Gilchrist, a seasoned homicide investigator faced with a case that will force him to revisit a personal history he would prefer to forget. 

From early in the investigation, two things are clear to Andy Gilchrist.  The killer dumping a female body part every twenty-four hours has a thing for the Old Course in St. Andrews – and he is personally challenging Andy to stop him.  Andy’s life, whether he knows it or not, begins to unravel on the morning that a woman’s amputated hand is discovered in the Road Hole Bunker approaching the golf course’s seventeenth green.  The fingers of that dismembered hand hold a one-word note with a rather obvious message: “Murder.”  Even more chillingly, the note is addressed directly to Andy Gilchrist.

Despite each day’s delivery of a new body part and one-word message, Andy and his team are slow to make much progress toward identifying the killer.  Andy, however, knows some things he is reluctant to share with anyone else – the killer has hinted at his next victim, Andy believes he knows exactly who that intended victim is, and the investigation has become his personal race against the clock.

T. Frank Muir
As in the best of crime fiction, Hand for a Hand includes several interesting side-stories and back plots.  In fact, one of the more intriguing characters in the book, an old nemesis of Andy’s, shares a particularly painful episode in both men’s past that will jarringly impact their hunt for the St. Andrew killer.  Muir reveals details of that incident but, especially considering that two other books in the series have already been published in the U.K., one has to wonder just how much more there might be to their relationship.   

Creators of fictional detectives, because of the multitude of characters preceding their own creations, are faced with the near impossible task of avoiding descriptive clich├ęs.  Avid crime fiction readers are certainly familiar with the generic fictional detective that has developed over time and, rather unavoidably, Andy Gilchrist has something in common with that model.  He is a tad beyond middle-aged, a heavy drinker, and divorced because his wife grew tired of sharing him with the job.  He is also a man who, despite his many regrets, is still prone to repeating the same mistakes that have already cost him so much.

Hand for Hand is a worthy introduction to a promising series.  I am looking forward to future titles, including the two already released in the U.K. (Tooth for a Tooth and Eye for an Eye), because I would like to know more about DCI Gilchrist.

(Review Copy provided by Publisher)

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