The Hollow Tree

Investigative journalist Shona Sandison has never considered journalism just a job. Instead, she sees it as a mission that satisfies her soul, as Philip Miller (The Goldenacre) explores in the complex The Hollow Tree.

It's been six months since Shona accepted a severance package from the Edinburgh Post, and though she has carved out a few regular freelance projects, she's running out of ideas to pitch. Shona also misses the camaraderie of the newsroom, so she looks forward to attending the wedding of Vivienne Banks, the Post's longtime editorial secretary, where she plans to catch up with many of her former colleagues. The trip is some distance, requiring her to make extensive arrangements at home.

The night before the wedding, Shona witnesses fellow guest Daniel Merrygill walk off the roof of the Poet's Hotel. The festivities are put on hold, but one of Shona's editors, sensing a sensational feature, wants a story with her personal spin and convinces her to dig deeper. As Shona works the story, she uncovers connections to both Gary Watson, a member of Parliament, and Vivienne's brother, who went missing 30 years earlier.

The Hollow Tree works as an intense novel about ethical journalism as Shona wades through decades of secrets in an insular small town and alienates Vivienne, who doesn't want her brother's case dredged up. A subplot involving Scottish politics can be a bit dense at times, but Miller keeps the action strong. Daniel's suicide provokes further violence, and Miller delves into darker themes of friendship. In his second novel about Shona, Miller has created a gripping, cerebral tartan noir thriller. --Oline H. Cogdill, freelance reviewer 

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