A Winter Grave by Peter May



It is the year 2051. Warnings of climate catastrophe have been ignored, and melting ice sheets have brought the Gulf Stream to a halt and northern latitudes, including Scotland, are being hit by snow and ice storms. Addie, a young meteorologist, checking a mountain top weather station in Kinlochleven, discovers the body of a man entombed in ice.

Cameron Brodie, a veteran Glasgow detective, volunteers to investigate but he has more than a murder enquiry on his agenda as Addie is his estranged daughter. Arriving during a storm, Brodie and pathologist Dr. Sita Roy, find themselves the sole guests at hotel where Younger’s body has been kept refrigerated in a cake cabinet. But evidence uncovered during his autopsy places the lives of both Brodie and Roy in extreme jeopardy.

As another storm closes off communications, Brodie must face up not only to the ghosts of his past, but to a killer determined to bury forever a chilling secret.


A Winter Grave is another crime thriller set in the north of Scotland but this time May sets it thirty years in the future where the climate is wreaking havoc on the world after world leader chose to ignore the warning signs. While large parts of the world are under water, there are other areas that are too hot to be habitable and millions of people have been displaced leading to a refugee problem the likes the world has never seen before. Closer to home, most of the towns and villages along the coast of Britain no longer exist and large areas of the cities are permanently flooded. Further north, erratic gulf steams mean Scotland is being continuously hit by snow and ice storms.

Against this bleak outlook, Addie, a meteorologist, who monitors a weather station on a mountain near Kinlochleven, is shocked to discover the body of man encased in ice. The man is later identified as George Younger, an investigative journalist who went missing three months prior while claiming to be there on a hiking holiday, however Younger was not a hiker and alarms bells start to ring.

Cameron Brodie, a veteran detective, volunteers to travel north from Glasgow to investigate the case after learning he is terminally ill with cancer and may only have a few months to live. He has another agenda on his mind though as Addie is his estranged daughter and this may be his chance to make amends and reveal some long buried family secrets. Brodie travels to Kinlochleven with Dr. Sita Roy, a pathologist, onboard a vehicle called an eVTOL which is similar to a helicopter and can be programmed to fly to a destination without a pilot. But Brodie and Roy only have a short window to arrive in Kinlochleven before the next big storm hits and they barely make it with the skin of their teeth.

Due to the storm, Kinlochleven is mostly deserted and there are very few times during the span of the novel where we meet any inhabitants which contributes to the eerie atmosphere of the place which is soon covered in a blanket of snow. Brodie and Roy are also the only guests at the local hotel which wouldn’t be out of place in Stephen King’s The Shining and where Younger’s body is currently being kept in a refrigerated cake cabinet of all places. With the power out due to the storm, the autopsy is delayed so Brodie and Roy spend the night swapping life stories and drinking whisky. Both characters have been emotionally scarred by loss and they share their experiences while the storm raging around them makes it appear like they are alone in the world. The moment is a very poignant one and May is very good at humanising his characters so we get a glimpse of the people behind their profession.

Brodie’s meeting with his daughter is also emotional as he is desperate to reconnect but there is a lot of pain there and Addie is not open to a reconciliation, however they compartmentalise their feelings to get on with the day job. As it turns out, Addie is married to the local policeman and has a young son named after her father so there is some hope there. Brodie’s past is explained in flashbacks as he explains how he met Addie’s mother and how her subsequent death ripped all their lives apart. There are things that Addie doesn’t know and Brodie wants to set the record straight but Addie has to be willing to listen. However, Brodie has a job to do and the investigation is proving to be difficult as people keep disappearing and no one is willing to talk.

The pace of the novel is slow so it may not be to everyone’s taste but the complex strands of the plot are skilfully brought together with a few added twists. The setting plays a huge part in the novel, not only contributing to the eeriness of Kinlochleven but also emphasising the bleakness of the world we find ourselves in 2051. There is talk of world leaders failing to listen to the warning signs and the results of climate change are stark to see but it all serves as a backdrop to the main plot which eventually leads to the highest echelons of the Scottish Government. Brodie is a rather grizzled character who is jaded with much of life but he is an honourable man at heart and those softer edges are still visible so you can’t help but root for him even though the odds are stacked high against him.