Skinner's Trail by Quintin Jardine

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Skinner's Trail by Quintin Jardine

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Category: Crime
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: The third book in the Bob Skinner series is another amalgam of police procedural and thriller and makes a good read.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 448 Date: May 1996
Publisher: Headline
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0312144173

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As usual, Assistant Chief Constable Bob Skinner's life sees two extremes: the story begins with the birth of his son, James, to be known as Jazz, but it's rapidly followed by a death. A man has been found murdered in a luxury villa in one of Edinburgh's more prosperous suburbs. He'd run a chain of laundrettes, pubs and saunas in the city but the police had long suspected that these were simply a front for a drug distribution network. The investigation moves from Scotland to northern Spain and back, with Skinner collecting another investigation on the way - and there's no shortage of bodies along the way either.

I initially came to Bob Skinner in a rather roundabout way: I picked up one of the later novels to review with a vague memory that I'd long ago read and enjoyed one of the earlier books and wasn't disappointed. From there I read up to date and then did something which I've not done often: I went back to the beginning and started from there. It says a great deal for the quality of the stories that even knowing how some relationships will turn out the first, second and now the third books have all proved to be rewarding, enjoyable reads.

There are several factors which are carrying me through this series: first of all is the character of Bob Skinner. In real life I suspect that I would find him to be an overbearing bully, but he comes off the page well, if a little too perfectly. He has the sort of private life of which soap operas dream: widowed when his first wife died in a car accident leaving him with a toddler daughter to raise and now married to Dr Sarah Grace, with whom he works on a regular basis. His son's been born more than twenty years after his daughter Alex. He makes for good copy and Jardine is a great storyteller, with a talent for both the police procedural and the thriller.

The second factor is that Quintin Jardine obviously knows Edinburgh well and not just as a tourist. It's a city I love and as I read the books I find myself walking the streets, or the Botanical Gardens ('the Botanics' as they're known in the city) and seeing what the characters see. It's an additional treat when so many books read as though they could be set anywhere.

The final reason for my following this series through is personal. Because of a vision problem I've been restricting the amount of reading that I do and I've listened to the Skinner books as audio downloads, all of which I've bought myself. They're narrated by James Bryce who's nobly taken on the task of telling a story which is heavily populated by middle-aged, middle class Scotsmen and somehow giving them all individual voices - and that is no mean feat. As soon as I finish one, I buy the next download!

For more Edinburgh crime, we've been quietly impressed by Where the Shadows Fall: An Alice Rice Mystery by Gillian Galbraith.

Quintin Jardine's Bob Skinner Novels in Chronological Order

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