I’m delighted to have a guest post from Rebecca McKinney to share with you today and also to share my thoughts on her latest novel, Siren Song. I thoroughly enjoyed both of the author’s previous novels and although this is rather different in style, I thought it was excellent too.
The two main characters of Harrison Jones and Amy Bell make a brilliant pairing. Harrison is a university lecturer in anthropology while Amy is ex-army and a paramedic. From an unusual initial meeting, the two discover they have something in common, an uncanny ability to know what’s is going to happen before it does or to be able to almost read someone’s mind. Using these skills, they begin working together to track down a missing girl, Lucy Merriweather.
Siren Song was quite different from any books I’ve read recently and a real twist on the usual detective or private investigator story. I thought it was really well written and it kept me gripped throughout. I found the psychic element an intriguing concept and the storyline often went in a direction I didn’t expect. I’d certainly describe it as a real page turner, particularly in the tense final chapters. I’m pleased this is described as the first Harrison Jones and Amy Bell mystery because I thoroughly enjoyed reading about this unusual partnership and am looking forward to seeing what happens next for them.
From 7th- 15th September to coincide with the blogtour, Siren Song will be on offer at just 99p for the Kindle edition. You can order your copy here: Siren Song
Siren Song and the Dark Magic of Edinburgh – by Rebecca McKinney
When I think of the novels I love, they have two things in common: strong characters and a vivid sense of place. For me, people and places are almost more important than plot. When I go on holiday, I like to read books set where I’m going, and I have been known to choose holiday destinations based on books I’ve read.
Siren Song is the first novel in my new noir series featuring the psychic detective duo of Harrison Jones and Amy Bell. It’s set mainly in Edinburgh, with a foray to Athens and the nearby island of Hydra. Who wouldn’t be inspired by Edinburgh? Even after more than 25 years here, I can still wander around the closes of the Old Town or the cobbled avenues of the New Town and imagine a hundred fictional and real life stories. It’s a city with such a fantastic literary pedigree, as well as a dark Gothic vibe that is perfect for a book like Siren Song.
It’s a city of layers and secrets. The Old Town rises up on the ridge of a hill, between the palace of Holyrood and the castle. In between the vertical tenements of the Royal Mile, the narrow wynds and hidden closes all have their own different characters. The little cobbled streets between the wide Georgian boulevards of the New Town hide local pubs made famous by generations of writers. In Milne’s Bar on Rose Street, you might expect to meet the ghosts of Hugh MacDiarmid and Norman MacCaig, locked in poetic debate. In the Oxford Bar, where I met the man who would become my husband, you might expect to sit down to a pint with Inspector Rebus. I also met the writers Iain Banks, Andrew Greig and Alasdair Gray there one night in 1997. There was whisky, singing and political debate, and for me—a young postgraduate student—it was food for the soul.
When I first imagined Harrison Jones, I had this image of him leaving Sandy Bell’s Bar, another famous watering hole, and walking down the Royal Mile on a dark winter night. He turns down the North Bridge, and this is where we find him in Chapter One, when he first meets Amy Bell.
Together Amy and Harrison explore Edinburgh’s other secret places: the ones that tourists don’t often see. Their search for the missing singer, Lucy Merriweather, takes them from the seaside haven of Portobello to the cold new developments that have filled in the old harbour areas of Leith and Newhaven. Edinburgh University also features in the book, although I have taken some licence with it. The social anthropology department where Harrison works is based on the department I remember from my time there in nineties. I should add that Harrison’s academic colleagues are purely fictional!
Edinburgh is my home, so writing it comes easily for me. Writing Athens and Hydra was more of a challenge, since I haven’t been to Greece for a very long time and I didn’t have the luxury of a research trip. This is where a combination of Google Streetview and an active imagine become a writer’s most important tools. I love travelling, but it’s also an act of joyful discovery to research a place, to explore it through maps, videos and other people’s words, and then imagine myself into it.
Right now, when Covid 19 has curtailed our ability to travel, reading and writing can take us to the places we wish we could go. I hope you enjoy taking a walk with me into Edinburgh’s dark, broody heart!
From the back of the book
A man who glimpses other people’s inner worlds, and a woman who can foresee death. Can they trace a missing girl before the worst happens?
Harrison Jones is a university lecturer with a secret: he moonlights as a psychic detective. Amy Bell is a paramedic who has the uncanny knack of knowing things are going to happen before they do. From their first accidental meeting on an Edinburgh bridge, both of their lives are destined to change.
Harrison invites Amy to help him investigate the disappearance of a beautiful young singer. The search will lead them into the murky world of human trafficking, from Edinburgh to the streets of Athens, and into the darkest corners of the human mind…
About the author
Rebecca McKinney is a writer, therapist and community development practitioner, living and working in Midlothian, Scotland. She shares her home with her husband, two teenagers, three cats, and a growing collection of musical instruments.
The Angel in the Stone: shortlisted for the Highland Book Prize, 2017: Sandstone Press
Blast Radius: 2015: Sandstone Press