Since 1993 Scottish author Quintin Jardine has written three popular series of crime novels. First there was Edinburgh policeman Bob Skinner, then came private detective turned Hollywood actor Oz Blackstone, now deceased, and since 2009 we've had Oz's former wife, the spirited Primavera. In her fourth outing, Deadly Business, Prim is nicely settled in St Marti in Spain when a blackmailer comes calling.
Duncan Culshaw is the boyfriend of Susie, who, like Primavera, had a child with Oz. The two former love rivals have since become friends and Prim is looking after Susie's two children when she offers to look at a novel manuscript that Culshaw has written, prior to possibly recommending it to an agent. However, the manuscript is thinly disguised hatchet job on Oz, Prim and the son they had together, young Tom.
Culshaw is a nasty piece of vileness, who in addition to being a blackmailer also once hit Tom and has a habit of ogling undressed school-age girls. Susie's children also disliked him immensely, so when their mother, who is dying from cancer, then marries him in a lonely moment of weakness, Prim and the whole family are horrified. When Susie dies they face the prospect of having a blackmailer in the family who can also get his hands on the huge business interests of the dead woman and the future inheritances of the three children.
As Prim mounts a fight-back – joining the board of the family business – she has a new ally in old friend Liam, who becomes her lover. The action switches to Glasgow and a boardroom battle between Primavera and Culshaw along with his uncle, Phil. Scams and hidden enemies plot against Prim, but with the odds mounting against her, the middle-aged mother comes out fighting.
Quintin Jardine shows a sure feminine touch in writing Primavera's first-person narrative, and she emerges as down to earth, strong and likeable. The novel gets off to a slow start as we're given a who's who rundown of all the players and their past connections, but the pace quickens enjoyably once battle commences in the second half of the book.
The title Deadly Business perhaps conveys more peril and action than the story contains, but the mystery is built around characters who are well-drawn and easy to warm to, along with an intricate, nicely resolved plot.