Orion | 2019 (13 June) | 320p | Bought copy | Buy the book
A young girl, Erin, has been abducted from a friend’s birthday party. The days are passing and the police are struggling, in full view of the family, community and media. DI Lukas Mahler knows that time is one thing he doesn’t have and so, when old human remains are found at a building site, it’s a struggle to cope. But this cold case, dating back to the 1940s, throws lights on secrets hidden for years within this small rural community on the edge of Inverness. And then another little girl is targeted. As the case develops, and spreads to the Lake District, Mahler will discover how the past and present are linked – by death, murder and the darkest secrets.
What Lies Buried is Margaret Kirk’s second novel to feature DI Lukas Mahler and I’m sorry to say that I’ve yet to read the first, Shadow Man. This did mean that I was a little in the dark about events that continue to haunt Mahler but it didn’t affect my enjoyment of What Lies Buried in the least. This is excellent storytelling and the tale it tells is complex, multi-layered and as much driven by character as it is by plot.
I’m so pleased to have discovered Mahler. He’s an interesting man who has now returned to the Highlands after years working away in London. It isn’t always easy living in the Highlands, as the wonderful character of Ella Kirkpatrick attests, but it’s clear that Mahler is now back where he belongs, even if he is haunted by ghosts and troubled by old friends. I did enjoy the interaction of Mahler with his colleagues, not all of whom are quite what they seem.
The mystery here, involving the abduction of young girls, is a dark and disturbing one. Margaret Kirk deals with it sensitively. We’re aware of what’s going on through brief glimpses into the horror but the author doesn’t dwell on it. The focus is on the stress endured by police and families as the days pass. The pressure is intense and everyone suffers from it. You can feel the fatigue and tiredness.
The 70-year-old cold case doesn’t play as large a part in the novel as I’d expected but it provides a fascinating glimpse of life here during the war years. It also enables us to meet Ella Kirkpatrick who is such a glorious creation. But Mahler’s attention is firmly fixed on the missing girls.
There is so much attention to detail in how the case is meticulously investigated. It’s hard work that gets results. There are no short cuts, as one detective must discover. Mistakes are costly but the rewards when a case such as this is solved are immense. Perhaps Mahler might then get the sleep and healing he needs. I look forward to meeting him again.