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Three cases face stressed detective

By Margaret Chrystall

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DIFFICULT subjects rise to the surface in Margaret Kirk’s Inverness in her latest book What Lies Buried.

But in the real Inverness, where she sits in her favourite coffee shop, a week before her second DI Lukas Maher book is launched, it’s not murder stalking the streets.

Pacing through her mind is the prospect of the August deadline for Margaret’s third book in the DI Lukas Maher series.

But still as fresh as the unopened pages of What Lies Buried – which will hit the bookshops next week – is the more complex web Margaret has weaved in this second outing for her Inverness-based police ‘family’ – the MIT, or murder investigation team.

“I wanted to make this book as multi-layered as I could,” said Margaret, who adds more meat to the stories of her Inverness investigators based in the city’s Burnett Road.

When it came out in 2017, Shadow Man was quickly described as ‘Highland Noir’ – a sub-genre of Scottish crime fiction’s Tartan Noir – and with dark mysteries coming to light in Margaret’s new one, the description seems even more apt for the books.

Inverness writer Margaret Kirk. Picture: Marc Marnie
Inverness writer Margaret Kirk. Picture: Marc Marnie

In the new one, 10 year-old Erin has gone missing from a friend’s birthday party. With no witnesses and no leads, Detective Inspector Lukas Mahler races against time to find her. But he is also dealing with the discovery of human remains on a construction site near Inverness – a cold case from the 1940s.

Was the murder linked to a nearby POW camp or is there an even darker story to be uncovered?

With his team stretched to the limit, Mahler’s hunt for Erin’s abductor takes him from Inverness to the Lake District.

And later readers will find that decades-old family secrets will shockingly link both cases.

In What Lies Buried, there are interwoven plots for Margaret to wrangle, new groups to encounter, from wise women to vigilantes – and difficult subjects to write about, such as the abduction of young girls.

Margaret said: “That one in particular is quite a difficult one and you can’t shy away from the horror of it. I think if you draw too much of a veil over it, you are not doing your job.”

The prospect of possible child abuse is raised by Erin’s disappearance.

“It is something we have to look at and something we have to confront and I suspect it goes on in so many places that you would never imagine,” Margaret said.

“I also wanted to make it clear it is not a modern phenomenon, just that it is more open and talked about these days.

“I’m not sure if I believe in the nature of evil, but I certainly do believe that there are people capable of very evil acts and something of that must come through. I want people to have that feeling when they are reading.”

Margaret's second thriller in the DI Lukas Mahler series.
Margaret's second thriller in the DI Lukas Mahler series.

There is also a theme about women finding their strength and dealing with what the world throws at them in What Lies Buried. An older character, Ella, is a charismatic woman who – like put-upon police officer Naz – is more than capable of taking care of herself.

Margaret said: “I wanted to show the strength of women of all different kinds.

“And I really liked Ella when I was creating her.

“For me, the theme follows on slightly from the strength of women in book one, where you have some – like Grace, Lukas’s mother who has mental health issues – in a very bad place as that unfolds.”

Returning to the city is an experience Margaret shares with her lead character, detective Lukas.

And for both Lukas and Margaret there’s a geographical adjustment from MIT’s Burnett Road HQ ahead.

Margaret revealed: “Imagine my sadness when I got talking to someone who used to work in the police and now works in a different capacity.

“He told me that though he had really enjoyed book one, he had to point out that the major investigations team wasn’t based at Burnett Road any more.

“It had been originally, but it is now at the police headquarters at Raigmore.

“So that was a small ‘Oh no!’ moment for me.

“But as it happens, the way the second book developed, it will be perfectly fine for me to move Mahler and the team into headquarters for the next one.”

Margaret’s launch event for What Lies Buried is tomorrow (Thursday, June 13) at 6pm in Waterstones Inverness.

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