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A Small Death in the Great Glen: A Novel Paperback – August 3, 2010


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Atria Books (August 3, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439154937
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439154939
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.2 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #344,655 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* This splendid debut mystery has everything going for it—and a bit more, if you count sly Scottish charm. Scott’s writing is engaging, and her plotting Macbethian. The setting is a village in the Great Glen (roughly encompassing what the author describes as the “fierce and stunning landscape” between Fort William and Inverness) in the Highlands of Scotland. The time, 1956, is fairly calm but close enough to WWII to have residents still recovering from its devastating effects. The main characters cluster in the tiny newspaper offices of the Highland Gazette, a local weekly that is supposed to concentrate on livestock prices, auctions, and obits. Scott brings back the sounds of a precomputerized newsroom, the smells of ink and acid, and the feel of banging out stories (with copy paper!) on an old Underwood. When a little boy is found murdered in the canal just outside the village, the newspaper’s new editor in chief recruits the part-time typist, whose daughters know the murdered child, to help him investigate the case. They uncover a host of secrets and a number of people with a vested interest in keeping the mystery of the boy’s death unsolved. The characters of the crusading small-town newspaperman and the part-time typist (a battered wife at home) are skillfully drawn and will have readers rooting for them unequivocally. This is the first entry in a projected series, and it is captivating on every level. --Connie Fletcher

Review

"A.D. Scott’s beautifully written debut novel brims with intimate knowledge of the Scottish Highlands and of the dark secrets that lie behind the walls of a quaint rural village. Vividly realized with memorable characters and a stunning setting, A Small Death in the Great Glen is a novel to savor." — Malla Nunn, author of A Beautiful Place to Die

"An impressive first novel. I'd have imagined 1950s Inverness as gray and humorless, but Scott uses the background of religious intolerance, prejudice and petty jealousies, to bring together an engaging cast of warm and colorful characters. The central protagonists, all of whom work for a local newspaper, are interesting, well-rounded and sympathetic. I hope to meet them again." — Ann Cleeves, author of Red Bones

"This atmospheric novel sets you firmly in small town Scotland of the 1950s. The characters are engaging and the suspense mounts along with a growing sense of dread as events surrounding the death of a young boy unfold. Once you start reading, you'll find it hard to put down." — Peter Robinson, New York Times bestselling author of The Price of Love

"This splendid debut mystery has everything going for it…Scott’s writing is engaging, and her plotting Macbethian…The characters of the crusading small-town newspaper are skillfully drawn and will have readers rooting for them unequivocally…captivating on every level" —Booklist, starred review

"Oh what a delight, this book! Almost perfect in every way. A.D. Scott's fine debut novel deserves a spot this year on everyone's 'must-read' list." —William Kent Krueger, author of Heaven's Keep

"This mystery is a delight to unravel, with its lively dialect-spouting players, inhabiting a lavishly described, forbidding but beautiful landscape. A rollickying, cozy escapade" —Kirkus

"Written with humor, compassion and a fine sense of tragedy, A Small Death in the Great Glen is the first in a series by this promising new author" —Bookpage

"A rich portrayal of provincial life in the middle of the 20th century" —Romantic Times Review

"Scott brilliantly evokes the life of a small Scottish town and touches on issues that continue to perplex and horrify us. Score a big victory for "A Small Death." —The Richmond Times-Dispatch

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Librarian VINE VOICE on August 27, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
It's 1950 in the western Highlands of Scotland. Little Jamie Fraser has gone missing on his way home from school and Joanne Ross's daughters, Annie and Wee Jean, were the last ones to see him alive: "We saw him," she [Wee Jean] explained, "me and Annie, we saw this great big black hoodie crow. He opens the door, all of a sudden like, an' he spreads out his wings . . . and he picks up Jamie in his wings and takes him . . . ." When Jamie is later found dead in the canal and the coroner determines the boy was "interfered with" and murdered, Joanne and her coworkers at the local newspaper wonder--Do the girls actaully know something, or is it just their imaginations trying to make sense out of the death of a friend?

"A Small Death in the Great Glen" is Scottish writer A. D. Scott's debut novel in what looks to be a very promising new series centered around a local newspaper in Inverness, Scotland during the 1950s when the scars of World War II were still red and raw. While the plot of the story turns on the murder of the young boy Jamie, the theme revolves around abuse--child abuse; spousal abuse; alcohol abuse; the abuse of power and position, both civic and religious--and the community's silent acceptance that enables such abuse to continue.

The narrative juggles multiple plot threads that are woven into and around the hunt for Jamie's killer. There's Joanne, a part-time typist for the Highland Gazette, a job of which her husband, Bill Ross, greatly disapproves. Their marriage is one of constant mental and physical tension but divorce is not an acceptable option 1950s rural Scotland. Also, there's Joanne's Italian friend, Chiara, whose family has settled in Scotland after fleeing Italy during the war and now owns a successful cafe in town.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By S. Smith-Peter on August 24, 2010
Format: Paperback
This is an excellent, thoughtful, well-paced murder mystery set in the Highlands in 1956. It deals with the then taboo issues of sexual abuse of boys and spousal abuse. The characters are intriguing and well-rounded. The author clearly was recreating her childhood in the Scottish Highlands of the 1950s, and shows both the beauty and the narrow-mindedness of many of its residents. The Highlands are starting to change, with Poles and Italians moving in, causing some comment among the long-term residents.

The great strength of this book is its very strong sense of place. We get to see small and large towns, the camps of the Travelers, and the great glen itself, emptied by enclosure.

In addition, Joanne, one of the main characters, is very likable and we get to see her moving from being an abused wife to a woman who takes control of her destiny. She works at a newspaper, and the description of newspaper life also helps to drive the plot forward. Obviously, not everyone is going to be able to get the book, but for those with an interest in well-written British mysteries, this is worth your time and money.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Susan Johnson VINE VOICE on September 5, 2010
Format: Paperback
This book set in the 1950's in the Highlands of Scotland, is about a newspaper and people trying to move past the War and into the future. The editor of the paper wants it to be more than it is, the part-time receptionist wants to leave an abusive marriage and the cub reporter wants to move on to the big time. In the midst of this struggle, a young boy is abused and murdered and the newspaper employees struggle to find the answer without police help. The author gets the atmosphere of the Highlands down. The only drawback is some of the dialogue is chunky and could use a good editor.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mary L. Barton on February 25, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Quite simply, I loved this novel. It introduces a cast of believable characters who work in a small newsroom in the Scottish Highlands circa 1957. The setting--the rainy and windswept Highlands on the shores of Loch Ness--adds a gothic touch, and the Scotts mid-century values--wives belong to their husbands, children should be seen and not heard, those who are different are automatically suspect--all contribute to the pathos and mystery that ensues. Joanne Ross, a young mother of 2 girls, is caught in an abusive marriage, and she takes a part-time job as a typist at the paper. A young boy goes missing, and the newspaper's manager is determined to solve the crime. Joanne's struggles to regain her self-esteem in an era when wives who are abused are thought to have done something to deserve it figure prominently in this first novel, but it is the unwinding of the mystery behind what happened to the young boy that keeps the reader riveted to the story. Highly recommended!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Ranicee on September 2, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This mystery evokes a wonderful sense of mid 50's Scotland, the people and environment. A small boy's death is the catalyst for the unravelling of many secrets, seemingly unrelated events are tied by past evil. Enjoyed the growing independence of female lead and introduction of new characters throughout the novel. Loved the descriptions of country and town; reminded me of my favourite Scandanavian authors.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By highmtnmama on July 13, 2011
Format: Paperback
Others have described what this story is about so I won't repeat what they have said. I ordered this book because I love mysteries and have read many different kinds of formats, authors and locations but I especially like British Isles mysteries and this one pulled me right in. I was very disappointed. I read fast and especially enjoy when characters and locations are fully developed and I can if not identify with them, at least care about them. This book read more like a screen play. The characters were almost caricatures of who she thought they should be to make her point. They all seem so empty and vapid. The story had quite a lot of potential if she had worked out the characters and background of the situations a bit more.
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