Auntie M had been enjoying Aline Templeton’s DI Marjory Fleming series and earlier this summer brought her to readers attention. (See blog of 7/31) She is also the author of six previous stand-alones.

Now she’s successfully tracked down a copy of Templeton’s first novel in the Fleming series, Cold in the Earth, which introduces Marjory, her family, and recurring members of her team. From this beginning, it’s easy to see how the series launch attracted so much attention.

Played out against the real-life tragedy of hoof-and-mouth disease that devastated sheep and cattle farms and destroyed lives, Templeton gives us the people of the Scottish countryside near Galloway who must endure this unspeakable loss. Enter psychologist Laura Harvey, newly returned to the UK from New York, leaving behind a failed marriage and facing her mother’s funeral. The loss of her last family member gives her the impetus to renew a search for her sister Diana, “Dizzy,” who argued with her parents at the age of twenty and left home, never to be heard of again. Fifteen years later, a chance encounter brings Laura on the trail to the place her sister was last seen, the small town of Kirkluce.

The catastrophic disease comes too close to home for Marjory and her sheep farmer husband, and just as she feels she should take a leave of absence to be home with her husband, teams digging a pit for dead cattle at the Chapelton estate turn up the bones of a dead woman. Is this the missing Dizzy, or the mother of the Mason’s , who deserted the obnoxious family before Dizzy came to work there? Marjory’s investigation will turn up a family’s sinister obsession with bull running, providing an background to her first murder investigation. We see how she relies on DS Tam MacNee, the Burns-quoting sergeant, and how her family relationships affect her work and her work affects her family. With its strong atmosphere and taut narration, Cold in the Earth will leave you reaching for the next Marjory Fleming novel in a compelling new addiction.

2009’s Dead in the Water takes us to the other end of the spectrum in terms of Marjory’s growth as the head of an investigative team. The fifth novel in the series, Marjory’s family has faced growth and change, as has her team. Now a new challenge faces the detective. For political reasons she’s asked  to reopen a cold case that her late father, also a policeman, was unable to solve: the real reason behind the death twenty years ago of a young, pregnant woman, who washed up on the rocks.

Templeton shows  a woman in a high-powered, responsible position who often has to make tough choices between her job and her family. When a television crew arrives in town to film an episode of a popular detective show, the complications rise. The show’s star, Marcus Lindsay, is a local-born hero and scenes are to be filmed in his family home. He is also a former boyfriend of the dead girl, and the man the victim’s mother insists was responsible for her murder.

He brings with him an aging film star who is to have several cameo scenes in the episode, an homage to the woman he considers a step-mother, his father’s mistress. Although confined to a wheelchair, Sylvia Lascalles manages to charm the town and even Marjory’s sergeant and right-hand man, Tam MacNee.

Complicating the matter are the Polish workers whose presence antagonizes the less desirable town hooligans, adding a barrage of assaults to Marjory’s already-hectic schedule, and interfering with the immigrant Polish family who reside in the cottage at Marjory’s farm and help with the sheep and the housework, which have lightened Marjory’s home load.

Templeton manages to combine all of these subplots into a satisfying chain of events that escalate, even as charges from the Procurator Fiscal threaten to destroy Marjory’s career. The ending will provide resolution, but at a high cost to Marjory and her career, and to the memory of her father.

One thing Auntie M enjoys about this series is that Templeton’s storylines are always fresh and individual.

She continues the threads of Marjory’s home life and those of her team we’ve come to know and care about in the next novel in the series, 2010’s Cradle to Grave.

Hellish summer downpours have created flooding and may cancel plans for a three-day pop music festival planned on the grounds of Rosscarron, owned now by local lad Gillis Crozier, who has done well in the music business and bought the former shooting lodge on the Rosscarron headland as a second home.

With multiple business interests, he is also responsible for a spate of new homes  built at the mouth of the Carron, which the overflow have devastated. Questions of planning permission have led to demonstrations in the area, and there is vandalism at Rosscarron before the festival even gets started.

Then a landslide changes everything. Several small cottages on the coast are destroyed, some buried under the landfall from the overhanging cliff. A few people staying there are rescued, but a body is found in one cottage, and when it turns out the man was murdered before the landslide, the hunt is on for a killer. When the only approach bridge washes out, it sets the stage for an escalation of harm and tension, as Marjory and McNee are trapped for days at Rosscarron house.

Complicating matters is the appearance of Lisa Stewart, a young woman whose past includes being accused of allowing an infant in her care to die. Not convicted, nevertheless her past has followed her, and when she returns to the area, the bodies start to pile up. Once Marjory’s team uncovers Lisa’s ties to Gillis Crozier and his dysfunctional family, they must decide if Lisa is a victim or a ruthless murderess, settling old scores.

Fighting her own recent past actions, plus a part of her history she hadn’t faced in decades, Marjory’s investigation is also hampered by the tension between her and McNee, her most valued team member and her go-to sounding board. Something is going on in Tam McNee’s life, but the events from the last book have meant he hasn’t felt able to confide in Marjory. Will she be able to uncover the truth? As she unravels the history of those involved, the stories overlap and interconnect in unseen ways. What first started out as appearing to be a simple revenge scheme, turns out to be so much more.

This one is slickly plotted, with a high tension level thoughout the entire book. Templeton has vivid characters and uses the landscape to ratchet up her scenes. Templeton never goes for the easy fixes, and things are resolved in messy and often surprising ways.

Thanks once again to the wonderful Louise Penny for recommending this series. Auntie M hopes new readers will discover Aline Templeton’s  satisfying Marjory Fleming series.

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