The Figure in the Photograph

Written by Kevin Sullivan
Review by Julie Parker

The novel begins in Cuba at the end of the 19th century, during the war between America and Spain over the future of the island, and during an uprising of local rebels. If the reader is expecting an historical novel based in Cuba, however, they will be disappointed, as the action swiftly moves to Glasgow. The main characters are Juan Cameron, of Spanish and Scottish descent, and his father (Spanish) who has been commissioned, by the publisher William Collins, to photograph architecturally important buildings of Cuba.

Juan has been his father’s apprentice for a long time and knows the job almost as well. They also encounter on the island Juan’s father’s cousin and his wife, who manage the family estate, and Robert McLellan, a local doctor, and his wife Effie, who later gives Juan an introduction to Marjorie Jane McGregor, a young lady in Glasgow. Due to several tragic events, Juan comes into possession of the island estate, but also has an idea for creating a series of photographs using a mechanical timer. Juan moves to Glasgow and becomes involved in the case of The Gorbals serial killer through the use of his new device. He positions one camera in the upstairs window of a bank, and the other in his hotel set to take a picture every 45 minutes. He meets Marjorie Jane, and she becomes interested in his photography and wants to help.

I enjoyed this story and found it to be a page-turning read; the forensic descriptions, especially of Glasgow and the photographic methods, are to be expected from a former journalist originating in Scotland. If there were to be another mystery to solve, I would enjoy reading another story about Juan Cameron, detective photographer.