Books & Literature

Book Review: Edge of the Grave, by Robbie Morrison

HISTORICAL FICTION: When Charles Geddes, son-in-law of one of Glasgow’s wealthiest shipbuilders, is found floating in the River Clyde with his throat cut, his beautiful widow Isla Lockhart asks for Inspector James Dreghorn to lead the murder case.

Well-researched but too hard to follow

Renowned comic book and graphic novel writer Robbie Morrison debuts this year with a murder mystery novel. As winner of Eagle Awards’ 2002 ‘Best Character’ for his comic book series (1997-2012) featuring character Nikolai Dante, and with over twenty years’ experience in writing, it was time to try something new.

Edge of the Grave was inspired by and is set in 1930s Glasgow. At that time, it was a rough and tough place to live in, with poverty, unemployment, prostitution, religious-based loyalties, and gang violence the norm. With this as his backdrop, and with the body of aristocrat Charles Geddes found dead in the River Clyde, the search is on for the missing killer.

The two lead detectives on the case are Jimmy Dreghorn and Archie McDaid, with Inspector Dreghorn having an extensive history with Charles Geddes’ widow, Isla Lockhardt. Throughout the novel, the entwined relationships between Dreghorn and the two other members of the wealthy Lockhardt family into which Geddes married, are revealed.

In fact, many of the characters in the book are entwined in some way. Although in some way it could be believable (as they have been in the same community their entire lives and grew up together), the relationships between them are too far-fetched to feel the story is real. 

As such, although the novel had the potential to engage the audience with characters that were complicated, well-intentioned, and warming, instead these intricacies left a plot that was just too hard to follow. There was too much information, which led to an inability for one to, for example, feel the empathy that could have been felt for brothel madam Kitty Fraser.

Perhaps if it were less intricate, it could have engaged a wider audience. Admittedly, if you are the type of reader that thrives on books that are overly complex and immersive, whereby you enjoy every detail of the action or story as opposed to an emotional engagement from a text, then perhaps you would find this novel well-suited. For myself, historical fiction novels are one of my favourite genres, but not so when the historical context of the characters, era, and community overtake the story itself.

Reviewed by Rebecca Wu

Distributed by: Pan Macmillan
Released: 9 March 2021
RRP: $32.99

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