Fate & Fortune

Written by Shirley McKay
Review by Gwen Sly

Giles Locke, physician, is reluctantly diagnosing yet another case of ‘morbus gallicus’ [the pox]. Hastening to join his wife Meg for the funeral of her father, Justicar Matthew Cullan, he is re-united with his greatest friend and brother-in-law. Hew Cullan has made the long journey to Fife, Scotland, in the very cold winter of 1580. He has been unable to settle to living in Paris and to the legal profession, which he considers holds no natural justice. Discarding all comforts on the way he still arrives too late to be with his father at the end.

Hew soon begins to find the responsibilities he now holds as head of the family irksome. Using the excuse of ensuring Matthew’s book will be published posthumously, he travels south. Arriving into an Edinburgh that holds the new 15-year-old King James VI, there is a sense of renewal and vibrancy in the air. However, before long, Hew finds himself immersed in a hidden mystery, a brutal murder and a missing child. Against his natural inclination he becomes once more involved in the practice of law.

Shirley McKay has written a gripping novel, having created a true hero in Hew Cullan. The book is well researched and intelligently plotted. The characters fit well into the historical background which gives them a sense of period and place. If the depth of Scottish dialect hampers the flow at times, the balance of the story makes for compulsive reading.

Fate & Fortune is very well told and holds a worthy place in the growing genre of historical crime fiction.