Book reviews: The Photographer by Craig Robertson

The Photographer by Craig Robertson
The Photographer by Craig Robertson

When a suspected serial rapist walks free from court over a legal technicality, the race is on to nail him before he can strike again.

But smart Glasgow businessman William Broome is a cunning predator and Detective Inspector Rachel Narey has a battle on her hands… she will have to hold her nerve and play a clever game if she is to outsmart the man who has brought fear and misery to his anguished victims.

Former journalist Craig Robertson’s 20-year career with a Scottish Sunday newspaper has paid dividends since he turned his talents to gritty crime novels set on the mean streets of contemporary Glasgow.

His first novel, Random, was shortlisted for the 2010 CWA New Blood Dagger, longlisted for the 2011 Crime Novel of the Year and was a Sunday Times bestseller, and now this pulsating series starring photo-journalist Tony Winter and his wife DI Rachel Narey has become must-reading for crime fans.

Noted for their hard-hitting plotlines, superb characterisation and fast-paced narratives, these books paint a powerful portrait of the shadowy side of a notoriously tough city.

Winter, a dogged journo but a man with both light and darkness in his soul, and his dedicated wife Narey, who lives with ‘a big ugly blot on her record,’ make an intriguing double act, their jobs and confidentiality restraints often meaning that they have to work individually on the same case.

When DI Neary interviews Leah Watt, a young hairdresser who has been viciously raped and beaten, she cannot help but be sickened. Murder investigations, she knows, call for a cool head; you must always leave your emotions at home. But Leah’s story ‘shifted her moral compass.’

Leah is sure she has recognised a press picture of the man who attacked her in her own home… William Broome is a social media entrepreneur, confident, arrogant, with ‘an unsettling coldness’ to his eyes, and reclusive enough to have earned the tag ‘King of Unsocial Media.’

A dawn raid on his home leads to a chilling discovery… a disturbing collection of hundreds of photographs of women hidden under the floorboards. Many of the women were snapped in crowd scenes, some just sitting on a park bench, walking a dog, waiting for a bus or working in shops, but they all seemed to have no idea they had been photographed.

Narey is terrified at the potential scale of what they have found and of what brutalities it may signal and, with Leah prepared to give evidence against Broome, she decides to take the case to court.

However, Broome’s canny lawyer convinces the judge that the photographs are inadmissible as evidence and his client walks free from court, leaving Narey devastated that a monster is back on the streets and that she has let down Leah, the terrified victim she had promised to protect and who has now withdrawn her testimony.

Meanwhile, her husband Tony Winter who, along with Narey is busy juggling his job with caring for the couple’s baby daughter, is sent copies of the photographs in an anonymous email and decides to secretly make his own investigations.

Soon, the family comes under serious threat from vicious internet trolls and Winter is determined to protect them whatever the cost. And can he and Narey find the unknown women caught by the photographer’s lens before they too become victims?

The Photographer is a gripping – and highly topical – read as Robertson’s tension-packed thriller explores the shocking mental and physical impact of rape, stalking and malicious online trolling on victims.

Handling sensitive subjects with both compassion and insight, but without forgetting that this is essentially a story to entertain, Robertson presents his readers with a compelling ‘how will they catch him’ cat-and-mouse thriller rather than a classic whodunit.

And directing all the action are Winter and Narey, their characters evolving cleverly with each book and their roles as parents adding a fascinating new dimension to what is already a complex work/home relationship.

Filled with unexpected twists and turns, and with a memorably evil villain at its heart, this is quality crime fiction from the new master of Tartan Noir.

(Simon & Schuster, paperback, £7.99)