A grisly discovery atop the roof of a venerable Edinburgh school slated for demolition sends two very different sets of investigators scurrying for answers rooted in the endless conflict between Serbs and Croats.
How did an 8-year-old skeleton make it to the roof of the John Drummond School, and whose skeleton is it? The official investigators, DCI Karen Pirie and DC Jason “the Mint” Murray of Police Scotland’s Historic Cases Unit, have little to go on till their inquiries about a not-quite-dormant bank account take them to professor Maggie Blake, a geographer at St. Scholastica’s College, Oxford, who’s still mourning the day eight years ago when Dimitar "Mitja" Petrovic, the Croatian Army lover who’d followed her from Dubrovnik back home, left one morning and never returned. Just as things seem to be clearing up for Karen and the Mint, they’re getting even muddier for Alan Macanespie and Theo Proctor, two underachieving drones at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, whose activist new boss, Wilson Cagney, is determined to get them to pull their weight for a change by investigating a yearslong rash of assassinations of ICTFY targets just before they were to be arrested. Macanespie and Proctor, who have considerably fewer scruples than Karen and the Mint about how they do their job, conclude that their killer must be none other than retired Gen. Dimitar Petrovic. Working at ironic cross-purposes, the two investigative teams unwittingly duplicate, complicate and contradict each other’s discoveries as they leapfrog over repeated flashbacks to the hellish Dubrovnik landscape to come up, in miraculous synchronicity, with the real killer.
This stand-alone from McDermid (Cross and Burn, 2013, etc.) combines conscientious detection with heartfelt reflections on the enduring power of the Yugoslavian breakup to wreak violence long after the 1995 Dayton Accords.