Blog tour: 7 to 17 January 2020
In the first of the Burrowhead Mysteries, an atmospheric murder investigation unearths the brutal history of a village where no one is innocent.
When psychotherapist Alexis Cosse is found murdered in the playground of the sleepy northern village of Burrowhead, DI Strachan and her team of local police investigate, exposing a maelstrom of racism, misogyny and homophobia simmering beneath the surface of the village.
Shaken by the revelations and beginning to doubt her relationship with her husband, DI Strachan discovers something lurking in the history of Burrowhead, while someone (or something) equally threatening is hiding in the strange and haunted cave beneath the cliffs …
Set in the northern village of Burrowhead, When the Dead Come Calling tells the story of DI Georgie Strachan and her team, DC Trish Mackie and PC Simon Hunter, who are faced with investigating a murder when psychotherapist Dr Alexis Cosse is discovered dead in the local playground under the swings, stabbed multiple times.
PC Hunter was in a relationship with Alexis and one of the last people to see him alive and he struggles to make sense of what has happened, especially as he’s not allowed to take part in the police investigation.
There are also other horrible things happening in the village, including racist notes being left for people considered outsiders, as well as acts of vandalism and harassment against the local Spar shop, which is run by Pamali. DI Strachan and the others must try and pull all the clues and pieces of the puzzle together, and work out just what has brought things to a head, especially when a second body is found. What is going on? Who is responsible for these crimes? How is everything linked?
There’s a curious air to the village of underlying problems, discontent and unhappiness – the children are bored, there’s a feeling of resignation and almost hopelessness, people feel suffocated and they don’t like outsiders, especially those who are ‘not from these parts’.
The village is rather unwelcoming and suspicious of newcomers, even those like Georgie and her husband, Fergus, who have lived there for several years but aren’t considered to be true locals yet. Fergus is ginger and from Scotland and Georgie is brown skinned with tight dark curls and an accent that no one can place.
There’s an other worldy, supernatural, ethereal feel to the book – it’s really spookily written and there’s such a sense of the past and darkness and evil. It was rather spine chilling at times and very disconcerting. And there’s also a sense of foreboding and dread running throughout the book of the horrors that lurk in this ‘closed little bit of the world’.
From the start, I knew this was a book that I could really savour – the writing is beautifully descriptive and really absorbing. It’s unlike any other police procedural or crime fiction book that I’ve read – it’s very layered and enthralling, with a dark, threatening undercurrent running throughout the story. We slowly learn about the community and the elements that make up its historical, endemic tapestry of racism, misogyny and homophobia, as well as the village’s bleakness and rotten core. Burrowhead sounds a rather unpleasant place to live! There’s such a sense of the past and evilness, which seeps into everything, and my trepidation and fears grew as I got further into the book. Very vivid writing, which really helped me picture things.
I really liked DI Georgie Strachan – she’s intelligent and sensible and her character was measured and calm. Interestingly, the author, herself, describes Georgie as ‘a good detective in a broken world’ rather than a ‘broken or angry or dark’ person.
There are some strange characters too: Trish’s uncle Walt is prone to wandering and talks of the Others and Georgie’s husband, Fergus, used to be an engineer and also worked as a project manager at the BAE site several years ago but now he’s unemployed and rather floating around, lacking motivation and not sure what to do next. He’s too absorbed and focused on his hobbies, like cycling, photography and archaeology, discovering the ancient rocks and stones (menhirs) of the local area. His behaviour is rather bizarre and he’s distracted; a complete contrast to Georgie who seems so focused. She is starting to have doubts about their relationship after recent events.
Overall, I really enjoyed this atmospheric and intriguing book. It’s not always an easy read and is quite slow burning but it’s certainly absorbing and compelling, with a great sense of tension and anticipation. This is the first book in the Burrowhead mysteries series and I look forward to reading future books. I’m also keen to read Helen Sedgwick’s The Growing Season, which sounds fascinating and an unusual concept!
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About the author
Helen Sedgwick is the author of The Comet Seekers, selected as a best book of 2016 by The Herald, and The Growing Season, shortlisted for the Saltire Society Fiction Book of the Year in 2018.
She has an MLitt in Creative Writing from Glasgow University and won a Scottish Book Trust New Writers Award.
Before she became an author, she was a research physicist with a PhD in Physics from Edinburgh University. She now lives and writes in the Scottish Highlands.
Thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for my hardback copy of When the Dead Come Calling and for my place on the blog tour.
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