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by Alex Gray
Little, Brown (reprint edition), December 2007
416 pages
ISBN: 0751538736

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

This reviewer is new to the DCI Lorimer series, set in Scotland, now being reissued in the United States. Among the good news is that THE RIVERMAN, by Alex Gray, mostly really does work as a stand-alone novel. There is a complicated plot, engaging characters, truly evil villains and a sense of place that made me want to travel to Scotland. There are also some parallel story lines revolving around jealousy featuring DCI Lorimer and his wife and the murder victim and his wife that were particularly well done.

There are quite a number of plot lines that need to be untangled: murders at an accounting firm after fraud is discovered, the killing of a bookmaker, the disappearance of a junior accountant after a trip to New York, anonymous letters sent to the wife of one of the senior accountants accusing her husband of infidelity, the terminal illness of yet another of the firm's senior partners I must admit there were times when I needed to review previous chapters in the book to be sure I was following the action. There is also a subplot relating to DCI Lorimer and his wife Maggie: what secret is he keeping from her? Does she have reason to be jealous?

One of my favorite parts of the book was the almost lyrical description of the River Clyde in Glasgow. The river plays a pivotal role in the story, both as a receptacle of bodies and a location of high drama. The Clyde also provides some important clues to the detectives in solving the case. The character of George Parsonage, the riverman, is beautifully drawn. With his tireless sense of duty and decency, he provides the moral foundation of the book.

What didn't work so well for me was the character of Dr. Solomon Brightman, apparently a regular in the series. Dr. Brightman is a psychologist and the lover of Dr. Rosie Fergusson, the pathologist who works for the police. Although his appearances in the work do occasionally move the plot along, it always seemed that DCI Lorimer really didn't need his help. Their interactions seemed a bit awkward, and the psychologist's contributions to the solving the mystery didn't seem very meaningful. Perhaps he has played a larger role earlier in the series, and Alex Gray felt she couldn't leave him out.

In sum, If you like a book with evil scoundrels - no moral ambiguity here - a strong sense of place, likeable recurring characters, and are willing to work through the altogether too many twists and turns of the plot, THE RIVERMAN might be a good choice. I would be tempted to read another in the series - haven't made up my mind whether or not I am a fan.

Phyllis Onstad has been a writer, editor, civil servant, teacher and voracious reader. She currently lives in the California wine country.

Reviewed by Phyllis Onstad, December 2016

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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