Scottish crime fiction continues to thrive, but sometimes it can feel a bit staid and formulaic leaving you longing for someone to bring something fresh and exciting to the genre. Philip Miller’s The Goldenacre seems to be more influenced by Graham Greene and John le Carré than Ian Rankin or Val McDermid. Set in a world of fine art, and low morals, Miller brings together the work of Charles Rennie, and Margaret Macdonald, Mackintosh, the Glasgow Boys (the 1980’s version), the dying days of print journalism, crooks, spooks, and performance art. It’s a heady mix which leads you down dead ends, presents you with MacGuffins aplenty, and just when you think you have a grip on what’s going on it slips through your fingers and you have to reassess all that’s gone before. There is also insightful, and at times moving, commentary on the nature of family, and how even if you might not like them you can’t help loving them, even if that love is twisted from the start.
Philip Miller has written a stylish thriller which is a breath of fresh air and which deserves to be acknowledged as such. It’s artfully written (as you might expect from someone who has been a newspaper arts correspondent for many years) with numerous references to not only painting, but theatre, architecture, cinema, music, and literature, including at least one to one of the writer’s previous novels. And Miller paints the city in new hues from previous Edinburgh set novels. There’s not so much black and white, more shades of grey with a touch of sepia around the edges. It’s a crime novel for readers who think they don’t like the genre, and a literary novel for people who would normally stick to crime. Come the end of the year expect it to feature on many a ‘Best Books of 2022’ list.
Philip Miller’s The Goldenacre is published on the Polygon imprint of Birlinn Ltd