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The Burning Glass by Lillian Stewart Carl
Review by Gayle Surrette
Five Star  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781594145919
Date: 19 September, 2007

Links: Author's Webpage / Show Official Info /

Jean Fairbairn and Alasdair Cameron had found each other amid death and mystery and found they had more in common than they thought: they could both sense ghosts. So they tentatively shared time and energy and in a leap of faith decided to spend some time together. Jean writes for Great Scot magazine and Alasdair is a retired DCI now working for Protect and Survive and having difficulty in adjusting to his new status of being outside the police information network. Alasdair has the use of an apartment at Stanelow Castle until P&S finds a new caretaker. It's perfect for them to get know each other better -- that is, until they learn the new owner is Alasdair's ex-wife, the previous caretaker was murdered, the ghost and the history don't seem to mesh, and some villagers aren't too happy with the new age direction the castle's owner wants to take.

While this is the first Jean Fairbairn/Alasdair Cameron Mystery, it hopefully won't be the last. Jean and Alasdair are fully developed adults with a lot of the emotional and intellectual baggage that implies. The story is totally from the point of view of Jean so we learn more of how she's feeling and reacting to events. All is filtered through her viewpoint and as a journalist she's an observer. Her observations on people and places are very insightful, and sometimes such that I laughed out loud. She manages to be an active observer and yet let the audience know her own feelings about events. Alasdair is dealing with his first instance where he's not the officer in charge. He's not even in the loop; Jean understands and it adds an extra layer to her observations and emotions.

The mystery is simple in its conclusion but the convoluted, twisty path to the solution is one that you'd expect when so many suspects are involved. Stanelaw is a small village in Scotland and everyone knows everyone, warts and all. Luckily friends of Jean's are helping out local friends by running their B&B while they're on vacation, so Jean has a touchstone for local information.

This isn't a page turning thriller that will keep you up all night. But it is a good solid story with characters you come to care about while learning to appreciate the slower life of the Scottish countryside and small villages. Carl also plays with expectations and often turns them on their heads surprising not only the characters but the reader. I loved this book for the characters, the ambiance, the history and culture of Scotland, and the ripping good story.

*Editor's Note: The Burning Glass is the third Jean Fairbairn/Alasdair Cameron book, after The Secret Portrait and The Murder Hole.

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