Book review: The End Of The Line, by Gillian Galbraith

Gillian Galbraith
Gillian Galbraith
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Gillian Galbraith is best known as the author of six detective novels featuring Alice Rice, a detective sergeant with Lothian and Borders Police. She has also begun a series featuring Father Vincent Ross, a priest who solves crimes. But prior to taking up writing, Galbraith, after working for a short period as a journalist, was also an advocate who specialised in medical negligence and agricultural law cases.

Through this expertise she was involved in the drafting of the final report for the Penrose Inquiry into blood contamination with hepatitis C and HIV, which ran from 2008 to 2015, and this inquiry forms the backdrop to The End Of The Line.

Anthony Sparrow, an Edinburgh man who clears the houses of the deceased, finds himself working in the mansion of Professor Anstruther, a leading haematologist, and in the process of going through his papers, Sparrow happens upon Anstruther’s diary.

This records the life of the elderly professor as he prepares to give evidence regarding the scandal of HIV-contaminated blood being administered to haemophiliac patients between the 1970s and the 1990s, which saw over 4,000 people across the UK infected with hepatitis C or HIV. More than half are thought to have died.

The circumstances around Anstruther’s death are somewhat mysterious – rumours about a murder are circulating and a post-mortem reveals that he did not die of natural causes. Could the answer be found in the diaries? Having become a deeply hated public figure, could his death be the work of someone connected to a victim? Or is he more likely to have been killed by someone he knew personally?

As Sparrow dives deeper into the case, Galbraith allows the many facets of Anstruther’s personality to come through in his diary entries. The technical side of the process of giving evidence is handled as excellently as you’d expect, but the professor’s personality quirks and his fears are also presented in a way that only a confident writer can achieve.

By combining various different genres, from murder mystery to non-fiction exposé, Galbraith offers real insights into an event that’s been branded as the worst scandal in the history of the NHS. - Rhona Shennan

The End Of The Line, by Gillian Galbraith, Polygon, £8.99