Book review: Picture Her Dead by Lin Anderson

Picture Her Deadby Lin AndersonHodder & Stoughton, 448pp, £19.99

PICTURE Her Dead is Lin Anderson's eighth novel in the Rhona MacLeod series, which follows a Scottish forensic scientist as she navigates brutal murders and family drama in the criminal underworld of Glasgow. As ever, the vibrant characterisation of Rhona and her team of investigative colleagues brighten an otherwise macabre plot.

It opens with the disappearance of student Jude Evans while photographing one of Glasgow's derelict cinemas for an art school project. Her friend Liam seeks the assistance of his birth mother, MacLeod, with whom he has recently got in contact. While at first the plot appears to follow a conventional route, Anderson's focus on the scientific analysis of each crime scene makes the book refreshingly different from the average whodunit.

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Several sub-plots keep the novel fast paced and addictive. Rhona's troubled relationship with Liam is explored further as tensions arise between them. These aren't helped by her complicated love life and her involvement in an on-going case against a Russian criminal seeking to silence one of her colleagues.

As well as searching for Jude, Rhona has got to look after presumed-dead officer Michael MacNab, a witness to murder whom the Russian criminal Kalinin wants to kill before he can testify. Rhona becomes torn between her loyalties to her colleagues and Liam, juggling the pressures of that case with the search for Jude. Several deserving suspects emerge before all is wrapped up in a way that is satisfying, though not wholly unexpected. Anderson's characterisation of MacLeod is the main reason for the book's success. She is expert, likeable and open. Her emotional involvement in the cases balances out the detailed nature of the forensic evidence, which is not for the faint-hearted.

Jude's captor is not unknown to Rhona, sparking a link to previous novels in the series. Although knowledge of the other books isn't necessary, the novel also serves as a blazing advertisement for her back catalogue. Eight books in, Anderson's series doesn't show the faintest sign of growing stale.

• Lin Anderson is at Edinburgh International Book Festival on 13 August.

Review by Jen Bowden