Thursday, February 11, 2021

Review: The Blood is Still by Douglas Skelton

by Douglas Skelton
Release Date: January 5th 2021
2021 Arcade Crimewise
Kindle Edition; 288 Pages
ISBN: 978-1951627621
Genre: Fiction / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

4 / 5 Stars


When the body of a man in eighteenth-century Highland dress is discovered on the site of the Battle of Culloden, journalist Rebecca Connolly takes up the story for the Chronicle.

Meanwhile, a film being made about the ’45 Rebellion has enraged the right-wing group Spirit of the Gael which is connected to a shadowy group called Black Dawn linked to death threats and fake anthrax deliveries to Downing Street and Holyrood. When a second body – this time in the Redcoat uniform of the government army – is found in Inverness, Rebecca finds herself drawn ever deeper into the mystery. Are the murders connected to politics, a local gang war or something else entirely?

My Thoughts
The Blood is Still is the second book in the series, and as I hadn't read the first book, I wasn't sure what to expect or if I would understand the relationships between the characters as so much is already set up in the first one.  While there was a lot of mention of the first book in terms of consequences and dealing with the aftermath of whatever happened, I didn't find myself lost or confused. I actually enjoyed the interactions between the characters and thought the mystery was interesting, if very heavily based on character development rather than on solving the crime.
First of all, I really enjoyed the characters and thought this was a strength to this novel.  Rebecca, while interesting, was not actually my favourite character, as I developed a huge interest in Nolan, one of the members of the crime family, and thought his situation was particularly fascinating.  And while I gather he was supposed to be this nasty thug through the reactions from those around him, he didn't come across that way in the book.  I don't know if this was intentional or if the author was trying to make him sympathetic to the reader, it's hard to say. 
I liked Rebecca, but I feel like her type of character has been done so often that she didn't really stand out for me. She is the typical reporter who is dealing with big changes at work; her boss, young and modern, looks at reporting as sitting at a computer and basically regurgitating information that you find on the internet or from a phone call, without actually being on the scene.  It's fine as a story line, but it also seems to be a popular story line lately.  

The plot was a bit different from what I was expecting.  While there was a murder, or two, and a police investigation, the focus wasn't on that but on what Rebecca was doing to follow up leads to the murder. Because the murder occurred on Culloden Battlefield, the author took the opportunity, through his characters, to explain some of the historical details of the battle as well as give the reader some beautiful descriptions of the area.  I have not yet visited that part of Scotland, but it has definitely moved up higher on my bucket list after this book.  
The action builds rather slowly, and it took awhile for me to connect the different threads together even though I figured out who the killer was quite early on.  It definitely wasn't obvious and there were some things that I didn't understand until the very end so that was a pleasant surprise.  The threads to the story were woven quite seamlessly and I thought they were very well done.  The author is a really good writer and I enjoyed his writing style, he is very descriptive and imbues his work with humour as well as darker subjects.  The balance works very well and I enjoyed the character development as much as the story line. And while I like the flashbacks, while extremely sad, I also think they were the reason why I was able to figure out who the killer was so early on in the book.  I wonder if it would have been more suspenseful for me without the flashbacks.

The Blood is Still really works well as a contemporary murder mystery, combining the past with current world problems such as newspapers failing and trying to find their niche in the new Internet market.  The development of right-wing groups is also a focus and is a nice contrast to the Battle of Culloden scenes, but it makes you think that some things don't change even after all these years.  I thought this book was thoughtful and made you think about what was happening around you.  Highly recommended.



  1. Replies
    1. There were a lot of references to the first book, although it didn't affect my understanding of this one, so that I will definitely pick it up at some point as it sounded really intriguing.