Tricks Of The Trade by Euan B Pollock

Stewart Scott is a young lawyer, just starting out at an Edinburgh law firm, looking for that chance to shine, to make the break that will push his career forward. He wasn’t expecting it to involve tying up the loose ends of the suicide of one of the firm’s clients.

Major Robertson dies alone in his bathroom, with all the indications of suicide – he even left a note. But his estate will all go to charity, rather than his family, is suicide is the verdict, so Stewart is sent to assist an investigator, just to make sure. He was expecting a professional detective – what he got was Sebastian Dakar, Zen master, guru and idol of the girl who Stewart is desperately in love with. So at least he might get in her good books with an autograph…

But as Stewart struggles to come to grips with Dakar’s methods, odd little things start to hint that the Major’s death was more complicated that first appeared…

A bit of a first for me, this one, as I was asked to take a look at it by the author. It’s his debut book, just released on ebook by Endeavour Press. It had a different title when I first took a look at it, and a few bits have been tweaked a little since I read it – it’s a bit less sweary thanks to me – but I’m assured that the tweaks are minor. It had a more distinctive title at that point too, but I understand the need for the change.

It’s very much in the style of a classic mystery – Stewart plays the Hastings role to Dakar’s Poirot, although each are strong characters in their own right. We have the slightly useless police officers, a family of suspects, each with their own set of secrets – we even gather the suspects in the library for an explanation at the end.

And it’s a cracking explanation. There’s a beautiful clue in the middle of the plot – one of those questions that keeps getting asked that the reader never quite twigs the importance of until the final reveal, a reveal that is rather clever indeed. The whole mystery, while there are a couple of points that you shouldn’t think too hard about – the suicide note is clever but someone really should have noticed it earlier, is really rather clever. The author has definitely channelled the fair-play mystery and very successfully too.

It’s not perfect – there’s one aspect of the villain’s plot that was a bit iffy for me – but this is a strong first novel, with well-structured central characters. A very strong first effort and I look forward to more. Highly Recommended.

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