Ever since 1971, when he arrived in Glasgow as an eleven-year-old fresh off the plane from India, Rabinder (call me Rab) Singh has struggled to fit in.
When we join him in 1993, Rab is a plain-clothes Detective Sergeant in Glasgow. And he still doesn’t fit in, not least since his estranged Scottish wife is an Inspector in the same station. After he throws a punch at superior officer Ken Malloy, Rab barely avoids being sacked. Instead, he is posted to the small coastal town of Dunoon.
He leaves behind a workplace shamed by its failure to solve the disappearance of fourteen-year-old Ashna Gupta. Ashna’s and Rab’s parents were friends. Four years after she went missing, and on the day Rab is exiled to Dunoon, the case features on BBC’s Crimewatch.
Calls come in that implicate Rab’s father Baldeep, who died of a heart attack shortly after Ashna went missing. Rab’s mother Ruby, who guards Baldeep’s memory ferociously, interferes with the investigation, and Rab is warned that if he gets involved, he will lose his job.
Meanwhile, in Dunoon Rab faces the disappearance of teenager Zoe McCusker in a case that quickly has the media drawing parallels with the Ashna disappearance. Soon, Rab becomes a suspect in both investigations.
Zoe remains missing, the Dunoon station is barely functional, and the Ashna investigation continues to be led by Detective Inspector Ken Malloy, who is desperate to settle scores with Rab, who is barred from both investigations.
Thirty years ago, not many Scots were ready for a man in a turban turning their lives inside out, but Rab won’t let that stop him being a good detective. His career and the family name depend upon it.
In that order. Never mind what his mother says.
Lots to like with this one. A 90s setting, Glasgow, and an intriguing clash of cultures with a likable Scots-Indian detective in temporary exile from work and his marriage, looking into the case of a missing teenager on his new patch - Dunoon, while developments break in a high profile, four year unsolved other missing person case back in Glasgow - with the added twist of the missing girl, being the daughter of Rab Singh's parent's friends.
I enjoyed this one. I really liked the main character. We get to see Singh, both as a detective and a father and errant husband. A one night stand has see difficulties arise in Singh's marriage. His wife is also a ranking police officer and despite the hurt Rab has caused her, they still care for each other. She runs the risk of harming both their careers by sharing developments in the Glaswegian missing teenager case, as a new lead casts suspicion on Rab's dead father. Rab is warned to leave well alone, but obviously can't.
I enjoyed how the two cases unfolded, with the author skillfully blending both story elements into the narrative. It's quite a busy book .... football, family, mistakes and regrets, teenage rebellion, father-daughter tensions, an absent mother, Indian culture, expectations and suffocation, the importance of community and appearances, the role of the matriarch, racism, work tensions, small town gossips, police investigations, the pressure of the press, competition, point scoring, conflict and loyalty.
There's a decent pace to the book. Nothing is rushed but we don't hang about getting to where we are headed. There's lots of humour in the conversations and situations, which adds to the enjoyment of the tale. Interesting characters and relationship dynamics - personal and professional and sometimes both at the same time.
The ending tied up nicely and there's a resolution to both cases, which mostly satisfied. If I had a criticism of the book, maybe the outcome was just a little bit too neat and gift-wrapped.
Overall - really really good. This could be the start of a cracking series.
4 stars from 5
Author Ron McMilan's work has been enjoyed before - Bangkok Belle - back in 2017.
Read - December, 2022
Published - 2022
Page count - 184
Source - review copy from author
Format - ePUB read on laptop