There are no small deaths
We just finished this one for the mystery book group (we meet at South Madison on the second Thursday of the month). What struck me about the book was how surprised I was at the tone. This is a mystery set in the Highlands in 1950s Scotland and it uses the word Glen in the title which suggests something cozy or small-townish. Certainly A Small Death takes place in a village in the Great Glen, but it is anything but comforting. And that's a good thing.
Just about everyone in the village; Scots, transplanted Italians, and the Tinkers who travel through have heavy baggage. Though things are currently calm, the denizens of this burg are still dealing with the aftereffects of WWII. Too many young men died and the ones who came back are badly damaged (both physically and mentally). The Italians who escaped Mussolini are eyed with lingering resentment as are any strangers or foreigners. So when a young boy is found in the canal and his death is ruled a homicide, suspicion falls upon the outsiders in the community. But the truth is something far darker and closer to home.
The mystery itself is pursued by the staff of the Highland Gazette, a small, weekly newspaper with a new editor, John McAllister. McAllister is determined to change the paper's focus from obits and livestock prices to something that has real news articles. His staff; Joanne Ross a half-time typist in an abusive marriage, Rob McLean the young man keen to be a famous reporter, and Don the skeptical sub-editor, aren't as confident that change will be good. But the death of Little Jamie forces the issue and soon each is contributing to the investigation.
This is a dark, and very discuss-able debut covering some pretty major themes. While some in the group (one person really) thought the author spent a little too much time on the subplots and lives of the characters, most thought it added to depth to the characterizations and atmosphere. Ours is a mystery book group, but given the larger themes, I think this one would work for any discussion group.