Review: Janet O’Kane – No Stranger to Death


The most attractive aspect of a crime novel can be its setting. I can remember how much I enjoyed see my local cake shop featured in an Athenian crime novel when I was living in Greece. Janet O’Kane’s No Stranger to Death is set in the Scottish borders, an area I can’t recall having encountered in crime fiction before. The setting is intrinsic to the story and the book is spot on when it comes to the depiction of rural life.

Zoe Moreland is a GP whose move to the small community of Westerlea is marked by her discovery of a burning body inside a bonfire built in anticipation of Guy Fawkes night. When another death occurs, Zoe is dragged into the lives of the local residents where unpleasant and long hidden secrets are revealed.

The book’s greatest strength is the depiction of a rural community and the impact that a death has on the people who live in close proximity to each other. I also liked the character of Zoe Moreland although this didn’t extend to her taste in men. However I can also see that this aspect of her personality added depth to the character of a professional woman who values her independence.

The murder plot was well thought out with a decent cast of suspects to choose from. The eventual revelation is a surprise but, once more, perfectly accords with the location.

I believe the author is writing the second book in the series. I think based on setting and characterisation the series should continue to make excellent reading.

Thanks to the author for my review copy.

22 thoughts on “Review: Janet O’Kane – No Stranger to Death

  1. Margot Kinberg

    Sarah – There are some books like that, where the setting is really absolutely vital to the novel. And the Borders is a terrific setting, I think. It’s a fascinating culture. And sometimes, there’s nothing quite like a whodunit.


  2. I rather like Scottish rural settings, as that’s the sort place I was born and brought up. Aline Templeton sets her DI Marjory Fleming books in Galloway, near the Borders (they’re pretty good!) This sounds interesting; I think I downloaded the fatal “sample” from Amsterdam, I must read it and see if I fancy continuing. I personally always love to see more Scottish crime fiction – and all the better when it doesn’t continually portray Glasgow as a place of gangsters with guns – because it isn’t! (It’s the neds with knives you have to look out for! But it’s not as bad as it used to be, definitely!)


    1. I’m a sucker for Scottish authors too, especially Glasgow and Edinburgh, as I know my way around these places, and also ones set on islands, as I grew up on the Isle of Mull (which would be perfect for a fictional murder!) The worst thing that happens there is someone steals a bike to get home from the pub (but it’s always returned!) And there was a magic mushroom scandal about 10 years ago – so it’s not exactly The Wire!!


        1. You can come visit my parents’ farm (lots of space!) There was a piece in our local paper mentioning the village where my parents’ live last week, saying someone had their back tyre slashed. I asked my mum about it, and she said everyone thought it was rubbish, as it was one tyre, and happened right in the middle of the street during the day. It was probably the awful single track roads! It’s true that it can be catastrophic though – I’m thinking of the young lad who was murdered on Lewis a couple of years ago. It was the first murder since the 60s. It affects everyone in these places, as they all know each other, or at least who everyone is. People move to these places, and hope their kids are safe. But nowhere’s immune to the horrors of the modern world, sadly.


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