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.