Book Review: Murders at Blackwaterfoot

Murders at Blackwaterfoot by Miller Caldwell

Murders at Blackwaterfoot is a novella set on the island of Arran on Scotland's west coast. Arran is a picturesque island that attracts lots of tourists, a sleepy kind of place dotted with friendly villages like Lamlash, where we first meet Constable Rory Murdoch. He considers himself the luckiest policeman in Scotland, given the beautiful setting he works in and the low rate of crime on Arran.

But one morning as Murdoch is pouring himself his favorite Guatemalan coffee his phone rings with a vacationer reporting that he's found a body outside his holiday cottage rental. Over the next 140 pages we follow Murdoch as he investigates not just this one murder, but three. 

The book's billing as a "crime thriller" is not quite right. This is not a book where we are following a fearless crime solver, uncovering clues as we wind our way through every twist and turn until the final denouement when the murderer is revealed.

There are actually two separate cases to solve, and Murdoch solves them more by capitalizing on lucky breaks than by demonstrating his crime solving prowess. On the job he's hounded by his callous boss, while at home he is dealing with a disabled child as a single parent. The book does have humor, sadness and, at the end, an unexpected romance. It's really less of a thriller than it is a view into a season in the life of Constable Murdoch, with a few murders thrown in. 

The author Miller Caldwell is Scottish. He took up writing after having retired from a career in education, social work, and as a Reporter in Scotland's youth justice system. He has a number of books already under his belt, though this is his first foray into a crime story.

Scotland, and Arran, are ever present in this story. Miller does a good job of evoking the island atmosphere, both its scenery and its slow pace of life. There's also a good deal of Scotland in the way the sentences are put together, and in the phrases Miller uses.  As an American reading the book the cadence and phrasing seemed a bit of a challenge to me at first. Then I imagined Mark Bonnar (you may know him from Masterpiece Mystery's Guilt) narrating the book to me with his Scottish accent and suddenly it all made sense! 

In the end I give 3 of 5 Stars ⭐⭐⭐ for Murders at Blackwaterfoot. I was disappointed that the crime thriller wasn't really the thrill ride I was expecting. But it was a nice visit to picturesque Arran and a pleasant way to spend an evening with a hot tea in my favorite reading chair.

The novella is the first of a three story set, and I'll be reviewing the following two stories in mid-January. 

NOTE: This blog post is my stop on Love Books Tours online tour for Miller Caldwell's Murders at Blackwaterfoot. I received a review copy from the author and Love Books Tours in exchange for participating in the tour and providing a fair and unbiased review. 

Murders at Blackwaterfoot links:

Because this book is from a small press based in Scotland, there are relatively few stores offering it here in the US, and it isn't listed on Overdrive as available to borrow from the US libraries.  

📘  This book is available in the US from these vendors: Amazon | Books-A-Million | AbeBooks