Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Serpentine review in Highland News

...thanks again to Margaret Chrystal:


THERE’S a real thrill about seeing your own city turned into the setting for a violent life or death struggle.

It’s not an experience Invernessians have enjoyed too much to date.

But as the first of a planned series, Tom Morton’s thriller SERPENTINE (Mainstream, £9.99) sets the heart racing and the pages turning as dark deeds from Ireland’s Troubles resurface and bring secret lives bobbing to the surface on the streets of Inverness.

Mike Murricane – these days a well-paid but bored consultant mercenary in the Gaza Strip – is called in to help ex-lover and former colleague Millie Jones when their past in Northern Ireland brutally catches up with her quiet retirement.

Ruthless violence is on their trail. And somehow it all leads back to the mysterious Serpentine and a black operation from decades ago with the plot neatly twisting Ireland’s past and the present troubles of the Middle East into a hell-for-leather race for survival.

Murricane is a tough guy with a hatred of salmon farmers and a love of life’s finest gadgets, guns and motors, while Millie is a thorn in his side he can’t ignore. But also dragged into the affair is Northern Constabulary’s disgraced sergeant, Zander Flaws. Happily whiling away his time – when not having hot sex with a motorbike-riding pathologist – by quietly running his ‘department of lost causes’, he spends his time looking into the deaths of forgotten corpses. Until, that is, a horrific killing ties him into the race to track down Serpentine.

Impressive on music references – each chapter is named by a song title – and the everyday detail of real lives, the book has the trick of keeping the plot racing while finding enough time to flesh out the people who make the whole device tick. Each page has more than its fair share of black jokes and pithy one-liners, such as Millie getting her own back on an American colleague: "Always the American way, Clara. Neutral until it starts to put the price of petrol up."

And another boon is that there are plenty of useful, well-researched tips for would-be spies and assassins to pick up along the way.

You’ll never look at a razor blade or a cable tie the same again, after

Or Inverness, for that matter.

Serpentine sets it in stone – the Highlands is the new dark heart of Scotland.

Just follow the satnav up the A9 for the Scottish thriller’s hottest new destination – a hotbed of teuchter noir. MC

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