Is she alive, or is she missing for good…?
When the estranged daughter of Scotland’s premier art dealer goes missing, Private Investigator Hanlon is hired to find out where Aurora is.
But what she thinks will be a relatively straightforward job, soon turns dangerous. The missing girl has a troubled past but what made Aurora suddenly pack her bags and disappear?
Hanlon has her work cut out for her. The stakes are rising and she needs to get to the bottom of the case before someone else is attacked.
And is Aurora still alive, or is she missing for good?
A former detective in the Met, Hanlon now finds herself living in splendid isolation in the wilds of Argyll with just her knackered Vauxhall Corsa and her trusty hound Weymss to keep her company.
I wasn’t familiar with the work of Alex Coombs but the setting of Scotland was the thing which tickled my fancy. I live locally to the setting, I like a good Tartan Noir: colour me intrigued.
And Coombs did intrigue. Hanlon is a smashing character: damaged and haunted; loving her dog, her only emotional attachment; adjusting to her new rural life.
The University of Edinburgh alumni renders some parts of Scotland well – he’s good on the capital and its various sub-districts, as well as describing those single track roads which wind their way down towards the hamlets and villages on the road to Campbelltown.
There are some odd lapses – Loch Lomand in the Highlands? – but actually that’s the sort of mistake which seems to fit with the characters’ perspectives which is nice.
Coombs also has a mind for engaging characters – coke-addicted, psychotic Glaswegian hard men aren’t exactly original, but his is a memorable specimen of the species.
His gay hitmen are refreshingly rendered also and he has a lovely turn of descriptive phrase. “‘One person, they get in the van with the girl. Two people…’ He shook his head irritably. He was tired of this. There could be endless permutations – what if she arrived riding a camel? ‘Fuck it, if there’s two or more with her, we dinnae do anything.’”
He is no less comfortable skewering the pretentions of the Edinburgh students Hanlon encounters. “Morag was studying Creative Writing; if anyone was likely to make a mountain out of a molehill it was probably an aspiring writer with an overactive imagination.”
And this equally applies to the lecturers, “‘Look, I am an Artist!’ his dress proclaimed. Hanlon thought it also proclaimed, ‘Look, I’m an arsehole’ but for now she would keep that to herself.”
There are some false notes in the dialogue, occasionally it sounds a little generic and not specific to individual characters and there can be that flaw of the crime novel – a lot of recapping of plot while the detective muses to herself. Hanlon is a loner – having only a dog does limit her opportunity for natural sounding exposition.
However, ‘Missing for Good’ is a rattling good read, sprinting along with enjoyable gusto and building to a satisfying crescendo. All in all, thoroughly recommended – I’ll have to go back and read Mr Coomb’s other stuff now.
Purchase Link – https://amzn.to/3hbLh1x
Author Bio –
Alex Coombs studied Arabic at Oxford and Edinburgh Universities and went on to work in adult education before retraining to be a chef. He has written four well-reviewed crime novels as Alex Howard.