Against The Clock by John Carson

Against The Clock by John Carson
Publisher: Vellum
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

The body of a teenager is found near Portobello Beach in Edinburgh, wrapped in plastic. She went missing five years ago but it’s obvious she only died recently. Inside the plastic is the dress she was wearing when reported missing. Where has she been kept and why has she been killed now?

The dead girl’s abduction mirrors that of two young girls who have gone missing in the past two weeks. DCI Harry McNeil is assigned the case with the help of two colleagues from Glasgow, who have discovered the body of a young girl in an abandoned leisure park. Now an eight-year-old girl is snatched from the beach. Is it connected to the other two older girls who have gone missing?

As the detectives follow the clues, they know they’re dealing with somebody who is not only a deranged killer but who will disappear with his victims. Just like he did five years ago. Harry and the others are pulling out all the stops to find the girls, but all of them know, they’re running against the clock…

When two teenaged girls are found dead – one in Edinburgh and one in Glasgow they are very quickly identified as two of three young girls who went missing within days of each other five years ago. DCI Harry McNeil and a number of his colleagues quickly work together to try and find both where the third girl might be but also re-investigate the original kidnappings.

This is a fast paced and enjoyable Scottish police procedural style of book. I have been enjoying this series and while the plot and mystery can definitely be read alone, I feel readers will gain far more enjoyment from the many characters if they have read at least a few of the previous books to understand the various interactions and relationships.

I was a little disappointed this time around to find Alex’s character pretty annoying. I fully understand her situation and that she’s not quite herself – but equally I feel the jealousy and slightly petty behavior she showed Harry in particular was a bit beneath her. While I feel some readers may think this makes Alex more relatable and human, I personally found it a bit annoying and was pleased when she reverted somewhat back to the character I’m used to.

There is a bunch of Scottish antics and swearing from the various characters – quite a decent sized cast of them too – so readers who are somewhat new to the series might find it a bit of a juggle to keep it all in hand. I admit I really enjoyed this part of the story – the ribald interactions and clear friendship and connections between the group of men. To my surprise, I actually even somewhat liked DSup Calvin Stewart, though I expect he was purposely written as a bit of a git and rude character. He was certainly memorable regardless of whether you liked him or not and while personally I enjoyed him – I’d understand if he’s not every reader’s cup of tea. He is certainly a different and unique kind of character.

With a solid mystery plot and a wide range of variable characters I found this to be a fun romp of a story with plenty of swearing and police work. I’m greatly enjoying the series and am eager for more.

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