An original concept in police procedurals, See Them Run is suspense loaded from start to finish – and author Marion Todd couldn’t have delighted us more.
‘Even before she answered the call, she knew it had happened again. There could be no doubt now. She was hunting a cold-hearted, systematic, serial killer.’
Introducing DI Clare Mackay, See Them Run marks the first of the series set in Scotland’s beautiful St Andrews and its neighbouring areas. Relocating from the buzz of the Glasgow crime scene to rural life, Clare imagines this to be just what she needs. But when a serial killer strikes, she becomes embroiled in the darkest of cases where revenge ranks highly.
Awakened shortly after midnight, Clare’s first big case kicks off in dramatic style. A deliberate hit-and-run of a male with a numbered card tacked to his chest. Uncovering few clues about the victim’s apparently painful death, another replica murder occurs within 24 hours. And then another. Something links the men. But what? And who? Clare and her team must act quickly before the killer attacks again.
“You’ve a lot to sort out, here, Inspector. I sincerely hope you’re up to the job.”
Aside from the first murder, the narrative is entirely Clare’s. With a strong supporting cast of Chris, her DS, efficient Jim and reliable Sara, Clare has her work cut out. Meeting DCI Alastair Gibson’s demands is enough challenge in itself, but Clare persists in holding her own in this male-dominated world. Known to the reader is Clare’s vulnerable side, making her entirely relatable. Whether patting the hands of victims’ relatives or looking after a dog left at a scene, Clare’s compassion is evident. Climbing wearily into bed each night to grab a few hours fitful sleep she battles on, fortified by strong coffee, as the body count rises. And still, the memories of the secret she is trying to bury find her. The victims, the killer and Clare herself are all running from something. And with twists as windy as a Scottish country lane, the modus operandi will undoubtedly bring surprise.
‘She could see the house, a fairly substantial Edwardian dwelling with white rendered walls, but there was no sign of life.’
With her eye for detail, Marion Todd leaves no stone unturned. From a barmaid’s claret-coloured lips to houses with orange pan-tiled roofs, colour enhances the sense of place to strike a balance with the grimness of the plot. And if you follow Marion on Instagram you’ll see her love of nature plays its part too. ‘Sunday morning birdsong’, ‘gnarled oak among the larch and pine trees’ and ‘verges planted with tulips and narcissi’: all create a backdrop for Clare, leaping fallen branches and speeding through country lanes in pursuit of the killer.
With this debut police procedural Marion has fully covered her ground. Appropriate use of acronyms and research procedures (such as not leading a witness in questioning) make the novel entirely believable. Pivotal to the plot is its technical language. Just the right amount of detail at key points allow the reader to follow events. With talk of off-grid computer software hacking, keyloggers and an ‘Onion Router’, Scotland Yard could well be calling on the author for assistance!
‘As she inserted the key and started the engine, the door of the station opened and Chris motioned to her to come back inside.’
The main theme for See Them Run is deliberately and carefully concealed for a good portion of the novel. Driven by snappy, realistic dialogue, the investigating office is easy to depict. From the smell of take-out pizza to the quips between colleagues the case naturally unfolds and nothing feels contrived.
Members of the writing community for over a year now, we have connected with Marion many times. Subsequently we knew her writing would be exceptional. However, we were still blown away by the oh so CLEVER concept of this fabulous debut. See Them Run is an absolute thrill from beginning to end. Absorbing and current, its overarching theme and sub-plots are inventive and expertly woven. Building enough backstory for us to empathise with Clare, author Marion transports us into the detective’s head with apparent ease. And with enough teasers in place, we are already craving more from the new detective in town.
A hard-hitting police procedural with a terrific female lead, See Them Run is an original concept for a thriller and we can’t wait to see where DI Clare Mackay takes us next.