Welsh, Louise - 'Naming the Bones'
This is the fourth novel from Louise Welsh. I've previously read the superb THE CUTTING ROOM and THE BULLET TRICK and am pleased to report that NAMING THE BONES was equally enjoyable. The book is set in Scotland and features the university scholar, Murray Watson. He's just obtained a sabbatical to write a book about the life and works of his favourite, but neglected, Scottish poet, Archie Lunan. Archie died in a boating accident when in his twenties, after only publishing one anthology of poems. But was this really was an accident, or suicide. Murray's fascination with Archie began after reading a copy of the anthology, which he acquired in a second hand bookshop, when he was in his teens.
Murray starts his research in a library in Edinburgh, by searching through a cardboard box held by the library, which contains only a few items that belonged to Archie. There he is introduced to the bookfinder George Meikle, who knew Archie, and who tells Murray what he was like (a drinker and a charmer). So far, there appears little to go on, and disappointingly, Archie's ex-girlfriend, Christie Graves, who could provide some real insight, refuses to see Murray. But then he has a small breakthrough, when he is contacted by Mrs Garrett, whose late husband had been looking into Archie's death as part of his research into suicide. In fact, it turns out that her husband had died in a car accident while on the Scottish island of Lismore, where Archie and Christie used to live, and Christie still does. Eventually, Murray heads for Lismore himself and then starts to really unravel the truth behind Archie's life and his death.
The story also involves his artist brother Jack, and his girlfriend, his friendship with his colleagues at work, and his affair with the wife of his boss, Professor Archie Blane, all of whom end up having their own key part to play in the unravelling of the tale. The clues are nicely laid out, but while some events are expected, others come out of the blue. The characters are engaging, and the writing conveys Murray's enjoyment of literature, and his cultural background and experiences well. Murray is a pawn in a game where a simple investigation into his hero's life and work becomes something more sinister, and yet he is compelled to follow it through. A very engaging read.
Michelle Peckham, England