Skinner's Festival by Quintin Jardine

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Skinner's Festival by Quintin Jardine

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Category: Crime
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: The second book in the Bob Skinner series features a terrorist attack on the Festival. A very readable mix of police procedural and thriller.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 416 Date: August 2009
Publisher: Headline
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0755357710

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It's the Edinburgh Festival and the police would normally have their work cut out simply because of the large number of extra people on their patch, but this time there's a complication which every chief constable must dread. Terrorists have struck with a bomb at the heart of the festival and demanded that Scotland be freed from the yoke of British oppression: unless their demands are made public the attacks will continue. At first it seems that Skinner and his team are dealing with a gang of fanatics but as the attacks escalate he realises that they're dealing with a very professional group who may well have something in mind other than the dissolution of the 1707 Act of Union.

It's a great, fast-paced plot with a real sense of the frustration felt by the Edinburgh police: how do you police this number of people across a lot of venues, only to find a top-line performer murdered in her hotel bedroom? How do you make people feel safe and track down a gang of killers for whom money seems to be no object? (Almost) worst of all is trying to deal with a Secretary of Scotland who's so weak that he doesn't actually understand when the best thing to do is not to bring out the bravado. Add into the mix that Skinner's boss, Sir James Proud is away and his stand-in is well meaning, but completely inexperienced in anything of this magnitude. Then, of course, Skinner's daughter is appearing in a fringe performance and could be at risk.

There's a real feel for the Edinburgh of the festival and on quite a few occasions I found myself walking the streets alongside the characters. The city has a completely different feel in the Festival and Quintin Jardine captures this perfectly. I worked out who the wrong 'uns were fairly early in the story (there are one or two fairly heavy-handed hints) but it certainly didn't spoil my enjoyment of the story.

I've a minor quibble with the book and that's the sex scenes. They're not too graphic, but then neither are they necessary and I couldn't help but wonder if they'd been included just to tick all the boxes. The sex is clichéd and on more than one occasion I found myself wishing that they'd just get on with it - a sort of literary shopping-list syndrome.

Rather than read the book, I listened to an audio download (which I bought myself) narrated by James Bryce. He does an excellent job, particularly when you consider that the book is heavily populated by middle-aged Scottish white men with his only light relief coming when he was faced with a soldier with a Northumbrian accent which he lost in times of stress. Bryce is one of the reasons I'm working my way through the Skinner back catalogue: he's extremely good value for money.

For more Edinburgh crime, also available as audio downloads we can recommend Ian Rankin's John Rebus novels.

Quintin Jardine's Bob Skinner Novels in Chronological Order

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