Title: Photo Shoot
Author: Jo A. Hiestand
Genre: British Mystery
Michael McLaren returns home from working a cold case in Cumbria to learn that he’s missed his uncle’s wedding in Scotland. Angry and fearful that his absence has re-opened the family rift just as it’s healed, he drives to the ancestral home, hoping his appearance and explanation will be accepted. He’s more than welcomed. His uncle asks him to investigate the murder of his first fiancée.
Fiona Lennox was found in a rowboat on a Scottish loch, shot to death during a late night photo shoot. Why would she rent a boat after dark? Did she take it out to photograph the moonlight on the water? She could’ve done, being a professional photographer, but she was also a proponent of civic and environmental causes, which she documented with her camera. Did someone linked to one of her crusades kill her, or was the motive personal?
As McLaren uncovers layers of Fiona’s life and the reason for her nocturnal outing, he and his family are targets of intensifying attacks. But it’s not until he races against a kidnapper’s deadline and the threat of a loved one’s watery death that he realizes who killed Fiona, implications that are as deep and dark as the Scottish loch.
Voices followed Michael McLaren on his drive back home. They’d been little more than undertones when they began back in Cumbria. Soft, suggestive hints, barely audible, so that at first he couldn’t put names to the speakers. But as the miles slid behind him, the discourse and the identities grew distinctive. Advice from his best mate mixed with a hint of love from the woman he’d met on holiday crowded his car interior and his mind, real to the point that he thought at times they rode with him. Jamie’s counsel to take a deep breath, step back from his feelings, and think about his future drummed beneath Melanie’s declaration of affection. They cut in during the silence between songs playing on the car’s CD, interspersed like commercials in telly programs and droning beneath the hum of his car tires on the road.
But once he arrived in Derbyshire and stood in the familiar surroundings of his living room, the conversations no longer seemed real, as if they had been spoken to someone else or pertained to another time, and he had wandered unknowingly into interesting communication from another dimension. McLaren shook them off, letting them fade beneath the message left on his answering machine. He listened closely, fighting the feelings of disappointment, shame and surprise stirred up by his grandfather’s voice.
“Michael, lad, I hope it’s ye I’m talkin’ tae. I didnae ha’e yer mobile number, sae I resorted tae this ane ye gave me when ye were up tae the house. Yer uncle Brandon’s wedding is twenty-fourth o’ February. He’d like ye tae come. I would, too. I ken ye were just up tae Scotland in December, but if ye ha’e the time and can come back…”
The rest of the message faded under McLaren’s mounting frustration. Twenty-fourth of February. Ten days ago. On twenty-fourth of February he’d been in Cumbria, in the village of Moorton, involved in investigating a cold case. He had no idea Uncle Brandon was to be married.
The recording ended and the machine clicked off. McLaren stood there, as though mesmerized by the blinking message light and the words. The remarks stirred other memories: of the older man’s anger at seeing McLaren at the ancestral home, of Brandon’s eagerness to heal the family rift, of his own desperation to be accepted by the two men—the only family he had, aside from his sister. The welcome had come, thankfully, at the end of his December stay, but it seemed as stable as dandelion fluff in spring storms.
Exhaling loudly, he gathered up the mail scattered on the floor below the mail slot in the door and leafed through it. Nothing urgent. He grabbed his rucksack and guitar case, wandered into his bedroom, and set them on the floor. He changed into a heavy pullover before turning up the thermostat. The winter chill had permeated the house while he’d been gone, and the cold already settled in his bones. His fingers wrapped around his upper arms and slid over the knitted designs of the pullover as he rubbed warmth into his flesh. Seconds later, the furnace kicked on. The metallic purr underscored the fact that he was home and must get back to work if he wanted to keep the roof over his head.
McLaren brewed a cup of tea while he considered what he’d do about the invitation. It felt like some ancient Scottish-English battle, or at least a rugby match. If he left England now, he’d be at the family home in Scotland in five and a quarter hours. Possibly more, allowing for workday traffic. That put his arrival around eleven-thirty p.m., when everyone would already be asleep. Perhaps more than that, was going back to Scotland a good idea? At this late date, would it lessen any of the two men’s anger over his February absence and seeming indifference?
He swallowed a mouthful of the hot liquid and wandered into his office. A major stone wall repair job was set for the end of the month, but he checked his work calendar for anything he might’ve forgotten. 6 March. Today. Nothing critical, and the few projects inked on March’s page he could accomplish quickly. After that, he was free for the next fortnight. Yes, he would go. He needed to heal the wound.
His mobile phone was in his hand before he realized it, and he formed his apology in his mind as he punched in his grandfather’s number. But his words faltered on hearing the older man’s voice, and he found himself as nervous as he’d been three months ago when he’d been the object of his grandfather’s anger and heated words. This time, however, McLaren was greeted with warmth and understanding and unmistakable pleasure when he said, “I’ll be there Friday.”
Trade paper –
The Book Depository: https://bit.ly/2Wr0TYk
What’s the first binge-worthy book you read and why was it a must-read?
I can’t remember which one, but it was one of the P.G. Wodehouse novels featuring Bertie Wooster and Jeeves. Wodehouse’s verbs are hysterical, and of course the problems that Bertie gets into are mind-boggling. I couldn’t get enough of Wodehouse, so I bought a huge omnibus of a dozen novels and read through them in about a week. They still are one of my favorites.
What makes your featured book a binge-worthy read?
The book’s a mixture of English and Scottish: an English Michael McLaren visits his grandfather and uncle, who live in the family house in Scotland. So, that was fun to write about, bringing in two countries and cultures I adore. I got to bring in a lot of things about Edinburgh I love and have visited, so the book is a personal one for me. If you like Scottish settings, I think you’ll like this book, and you can binge on another McLaren “Scottish” book with “An Unfolding Trap,” also set in Scotland. I think if you like the location of “Photo Shoot,” you’ll want to read the other book and feed your Scotland/England craving!
One lucky reader will win a $75 Amazon (US) gift card.
Open internationally. You must have a valid Amazon US account to win.
Runs August 1 – 31
Drawing will be held on September 1.
Jo A. Hiestand grew up on regular doses of music, books, and Girl Scout camping. She gravitated toward writing in her post-high school years and finally did something sensible about it, graduating from Webster University with a BA degree in English and departmental honors. She writes a British mystery series—of which two books have garnered the prestigious N.N. Light’s Book Heaven ‘Best Mystery Novel’ two years straight. She also writes two Missouri-based mystery series that are grounded in places associated with her camping haunts. The camping is a thing of the past, for the most part, but the music stayed with her in the form of playing guitar and harpsichord and singing in a folk group. Jo carves jack o’ lanterns badly; sings loudly; and loves barbecue sauce and ice cream (separately, not together), kilts (especially if men wear them), clouds and stormy skies, and G.F. Handel. You can usually find her pulling mystery plots out of scenery—whether photographs or the real thing.
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