City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh Book Festival: Frederic Lindsay and Charles MacLean


By Vivien Devlin - Posted on 02 September 2009

Two crime thriller writers were brought together for this discussion on their latest novels, The Stranger from Home and Home Before Dark respectively.  The event was chaired by Lin Anderson who is also a crime writer. (Her new thriller about forensic scientist Rhona McLeod is Final Cut.)

The event began with readings by Frederic Lindsay and Charles MacLean (whose mellifluously articulated tones resembles the voice of Earl Charles Spencer) before a conversation on their individual styles of contemporary crime writing.

This is Lindsay's 8th Jim Meldrum novel, an Edinburgh detective described as "well crafted as Rebus" (Ian Rankin says the series is "intelligent, entertaining, gripping."). In this new novel, Meldrum is involved in helping his daughter whose new husband - following a whirlwind romance - has suddenly disappeared. The action, intertwining various criminal investigations, moves between Phoenix, Arizona and Edinburgh.

"Home Before Dark" also involves a close father and daughter relationship although in this brilliantly plotted novel, Ed Lister is desperately seeking to find the murderer of his art student daughter Sophie. Switching between first and third person narration, the story is told through the different experiences of Lister, a private investigator, an Italian detective and the killer.

The starting point for the novel, MacLean explains, was the idea of a stalker and the alienating nature of internet email chat rooms, where you don't know to whom you may be conversing.  The reader is taken on a thrilling journey between London, Paris, Florence and New York. As a travel writer and having lived in New York, he certainly adds a fine sense of place and atmosphere; page turning scenes set in Italy and on board a sleeper train are reminiscent of classic Patricia Highsmith.

Unfortunately at the end of the event, there was only time for three questions from the floor, one of which digressed from the topic in hand to debate differences between literary and genre writing. Charles MacLean quickly (and thankfully) responded by saying "I don't know who James Kelman is" and we returned to a final brief question about the narrators in his own fine thriller, "Home Before Dark".