Author: Claire MacLeary
Format reviewed: ebook
Publication date: 23 April 2020
When police are called to a murder scene at the home of Aberdeen socialite Annabel Imray, they find themselves under pressure to get a conviction, and fast. Meanwhile, local PIs Wilma Harcus and Maggie Laird are at rock bottom, desperate for income. As Maggie contemplates replacing Wilma with an unpaid intern, an eccentric widow appoints them to search for her lost cat – and Wilma goes off-piste to negotiate a loan, with terrifying terms. As the fear caused by a series of sinister break-ins escalates, Maggie blames the aggressive language in public discourse for inciting violent crime. But before long, she finds she is in the danger zone herself.
Will Wilma manage to save her?
Life is (still) not easy for super PI team Maggie and Wilma in the latest instalment in their series. Maggie is struggling for money, Wilma is longing for action, and their goals don’t quite meet. The sparks between those two could lit up fires that would keep us all warm and safe, yet at the heart of it is a beautiful and unlikely friendship that no dead body or dead-end cases can’t tarnish. How I have missed their spicy interactions, the way they care for each other, and the delicate balance they seem to be on. In Payback, Maggie has decisions to make. Can she afford to keep paying Wilma? The company is far from being prosperous and the bills are coming from all sides. A house and two kids don’t come cheap! This is how Maggie decides to focus on steady ‘easy’ and most of all not dangerous PI work… and ends ups being hired to look for… a missing cat. Yes, I laughed too. Then I realised that one) I would totally do the same if my baby disappeared, two) this story had more depth to it than it first appeared… But I’m glad I wasn’t the one chasing the beast!
On the other side of Aberdeen, the death of a woman keeps the police busy. Annabel Imray was a successful PR lady until she was found on the floor of her apartment. As the investigation uncovers her life, Aberdeen’s cops realise the woman may have lived a glittery life online but she might not have been the happy and nice kind of woman…
Claire MacLeary gives her novel a fantastic pace by jumping from Maggie and Wilma’s struggles to the very procedural work of the police and gives them all enough space so they don’t thread on each other’s toes. Being used to paths crossing and everyone having words, I was agreeably surprised and couldn’t wait to see where this would all lead! I am equally fond of the police officers we’ve got to know in the series than of our endearing private investigators. Claire’s unique and authentic characters are a delight to follow and each layer of the novel is filled with humour, red herrings, scary times, down-to-earth moments that make you smile or roll your eyes, without ever letting up on the tension that comes with the work.
Payback has everything: action, blood, crazy situations, and the most important thing – a precious cast that makes all the difference.
My biggest thanks to Kelly Lacey for having me on this blog tour. This review is my unbiased opinion.
Claire MacLeary lived for many years in Aberdeen and St Andrews, but describes herself as “a feisty Glaswegian with a full life to draw on”. Following a career in business, she gained an MLitt with Distinction from the University of Dundee and her short stories have been published in various magazines and anthologies. She has appeared at Granite Noir, Noir at the Bar and other literary events. Claire’s debut novel, Cross Purpose, was longlisted for the prestigious McIlvanney Prize, Scottish Crime Book of the Year Award 2017, and Burnout was longlisted for the Hearst Big Book Award 2018. Runaway is her third novel and continues the Harcus & Laird series.