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A Small Death in the Great Glen (Joanne Ross #1)

3.52  ·  Rating details ·  988 Ratings  ·  212 Reviews
In the Highlands of 1950s Scotland, a boy is found dead in a canal lock. Two young girls tell such a fanciful story of his disappearance that no one believes them. The local newspaper staff—including Joanne Ross, the part-time typist embroiled in an abusive marriage, and her boss, a seasoned journalist determined to revamp the paper—set out to uncover and investigate the c ...more
Paperback, 393 pages
Published August 3rd 2010 by Atria Books (first published 2010)
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Richard Derus
Aug 22, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: pearl-ruled
Pearl Ruled (chapter 10)

Horrible. I got through chapter 10 by dint of sheer will. Bad writing, predictable plotting, and nothing redeeming about it. It gets one star because it is, after all, a book. Save yourself the misery: Avoid.

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Jun 26, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: mysteries, fiction
Busy. If I had to pick one word to describe Scott's debut, it might be "busy." As in too much going on. As in trying to do too much. She gets top marks for an amazing number of interesting characters and for their development, as well as for her ability to evoke a solid sense of Scotland in the 1950s. The main plot is extremely interesting, but an abundance of secondary and even tertiary story lines cause the pacing of the book to suffer and creates an overall inconsistency in the final result. ...more
Mar 28, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
I'm giving this one a 3, but it is really more a 2.5. However 2 is for a book I don't like and I did enjoy some parts of this one.
First the langage was a bit difficult. Now while they speak English, there are bits of slang and terms that I didn't know and many of them aren't explained. That made for some rough reading. I've read other books that can giver the language and flavor of a place while still being very readable.
There seem to be too many characters so that none of them are really devel
Paul Pessolano
Jan 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
In the 1950's in a small town in the Scottish Highlands a young child is found dead in a canal. At first everyone thought it was an accident until a young girl tells the story of his being snatched by the "hoodie crow". It is then that they find that the child not only was murdered, but that he was also interfered (molested). The two main suspects in the case is a Polish seaman who has jumped ship and is being harbored by the "tinkers" (gypsies), and a Catholic priest whose background has been i ...more
Feb 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is the first of the series. I did read the second book first. Like Ian Rankin, A.D. Scott's crime/mystery stories are about much more than the plot itself. The story takes place in a tiny town in the Scottish Highlands, far from Glasgow and Edinburgh in 1957. Joanne Ross is a young mother working at the local weekly paper, first as a secretary but slowly beginning to write stories as well, much to her abusive husband's disdain. The newspaper itself is going through a transformation as well, ...more
Aug 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery
This is quite an immersion into a small Highlands town in 1956, where the circumstances of the boy's death are only a small part of the picture. There's the hidden xenophobia which goes beyond the expected "if you're not third generation, you're a newcomer" prejudice against both foreigners and the Travellers (tinkers), the struggles of a new (and Glaswegian!) editor to bring the local paper up into at least the late 19th century, the blindness to domestic abuse, and Joanne's balance between the ...more
Feb 04, 2012 rated it liked it
I don't particularly like the 1950's, so I didn't expect to be able to read and enjoy this novel. I liked the Scottish cultural content and I admired the inner strength of the female protagonist, Joanne Ross. It's odd to have a protagonist who is not the detective and who doesn't investigate the case when the book is a mystery. The actual investigator of the case is a reporter at the newspaper where she works. The problems with prejudice in this small Scottish town reminded me of a similar small ...more
Apr 04, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery, scotland
While I thought the beginning was a bit slow going, it picked up nicely and ended up being a good, solid mystery set in one of my favorite settings, the Highlands of Scotland. A.D. Scott did an excellent job of revealing the characters, their lives and personalities. There was a nice twist in the plot, while not obvious, also not far-fetched. Connections between the present day murder of a young boy and past incidents of child abuse were developed with care, revealing interesting details about t ...more
Apr 05, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: kindle-edition
I thought this was a fabulous read. It was a hard read because of the subject matter but a well written mystery/police procedural. In some ways it is as dense and dark as Rennie Airth's series with not quite the same command of language that Airth has, but pretty close. I may decide to tackle the series based on this first book.
Dec 07, 2011 rated it it was ok
A first novel from A D Scott. I was unfortunately disappointed. It had many elements that I was interested in, even associated with – the Scottish 1950’s. But as a whole, I felt the book failed. I found that it tried to be too Scottish, bringing out every possible bad stereotype of 1950’s Scottish life and emphasizing them. Yes, it wasn’t the 21st century, but I felt that the elements as described just didn’t sit as a natural entity. And while trying to be 1956, the book ending up bringing in to ...more
Aug 18, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2016-reads
I liked the idea of the story. If the author had stuck with the book flap summary it could have been good. If it were a story about Joanne, her abusive husband and her two little girls who had information about the missing boy I would have enjoyed it. There was too much going on. I actually skipped over the parts when it went off subject gambling that it was going nowhere anyway. I was right.
The first page of the book was so confusing to me that I read and reread it. Was the woman named Flora?
Oct 09, 2017 rated it liked it
Some good characters and well described time period. The down side of this novel was that the story line wandered a lot so that it was difficult to pick up and put down. Perhaps the next in the series is better edited.
Nov 03, 2012 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Lisa
Scott's leisurely novel is a mystery, but she approaches the genre through the careful development of characters and setting. The authentic flavor is charming, with phrases and description that may be unfamiliar to anyone who is not Scottish, and details like holiday preparations are fascinating. But be warned that this is not a cozy village whodunit. The mystery revolves around the apparent drowning of a frail 8 year old boy, who disappears one night, taken up by a terrifying "hoodie crow" in t ...more
May 02, 2015 rated it it was ok
The book begins with the death of a small boy and the dumping of his body. In the course of the story, we meet Joanne, a typist at the village newspaper, her children, who knew the dead boy and know something about the boy’s death, McAllister, a newspaper man, Peter, a Polish man about to be married to Chiara, an Italian girl in the village, and a multitude of other characters with their own lives and stories. The multiple stories incorporate domestic violence, feminism, the treatment of women i ...more
Jan 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
Immediately after the Second World War, the Highlands of Scotland is struggling to discover what it means to be in the 20th century. The small insular community adjusts (or not) to immigrants who were former enemies (Italians) while struggling to maintain old traditions and clinging to old prejudices. The staff of the Highland Gazette newspaper has a new editor who wants to move the weekly from minutes of meetings, gossip, weddings, births, and (most importantly) obituaries. Then a small boy is ...more
Jul 01, 2010 rated it really liked it
This is a Goodread win, and I must say one of the best I have received. The story takes place in a small town in Scotland. At times it seems there are to many characters involved, but after a while, it is easy to keep track, and of their story lines.
This is not just a murder mystery, but about how the town interacts and how they live their lives. Other than a few Scottish words, this could be any town.
I would not call the ending a surprise, but it is different than your usual story.
I liked the w
Dec 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
A Small Death in Great Glen by A.D. Scott was suspenceful and riveting. You might have difficulty with some of the Scottish expressions used, you can however figure it out. The child's death in the Highlands of the 50's gives you a look into that world.
there are lots of characters that you can easily follow. Secrets, disbelief in what the children say they saw, the lives and problems of the characters are all there. The death has roots in the past. I plan to read the next book and hope it is ju
Feb 18, 2013 rated it liked it
The three things I liked about this book. The characters were well-developed, the vivid depictions of Scotland in the 1950s, and some good plot twists. Two things that kept me from giving it 5 stars: sometimes characters had a 21st century perspective on social issues that did not fit well on characters in 1950s Scotland and some situations were resolved a little too easily to be realistic. I did pay it the highest compliment I can, which is that I stayed up late to find out the ending.
Aug 18, 2010 rated it really liked it
It's so nice to find a new series! A Small Death in the Great Glen is set in 1950s Scotland. A.D. Scott's debut is fairly dense and full of characters. Sometimes keeping them straight can be difficult. But the protagonists are likeable and three-dimensional. Scott explores the social mores of the time and the distrust of outsiders, all while weaving a fairly canny mystery. Looking forward to reading more!
Lisa Wolf
Jan 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
At once a murder mystery and a peek into life in a small village in the Scottish Highlands, A Small Death in the Great Glen is a wonderful read in terms of plot and characters. I'd recommend it both for mystery fans and for those who love books set in Scotland. See my review at
Aug 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
Set in 1950s in the Highlands of Scotland, with a brief foray to Glasgow's east end, I enjoyed the mystery/crime aspect of this book as well as the authentic language, atmosphere and attitudes of those days. The book has some very likeable characters and I look forward to meeting them again in the next book in this series.
Sep 04, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: not-interested
Slow moving storyline. It's tea and more tea. The characters flip and flop here and there, distracting and hard to follow. So bummed because I like the references to Scotland and the everyday language as well as activities.
Oct 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This book is superbly written. The setting in the Highlands is superbly detailed and the characters are painstakingly drawn. The resolution is both surprising and very satisfying.
Ancestral Gael
Why did I read it? One of the members of the Read Scotland 2017 group read, and reviewed it. After reading the synopsis, and the reviews, including the negative ones, and noting it was available in audio format, I decided to listen to it.

What's it about? A young boy goes missing in a Scottish Highlands town on his way home from school. The next morning he is found in a canal, and his two young companions claim he was snatched by a 'hoodie crow', a creature from folklore. No-one takes the girls s
The Hobbit
Mar 08, 2017 rated it did not like it
First in a mystery series involving the newspaper staff of the Highland Gazette. Each chapter introduces a new plot thread, making this book a knotted mess: the mysterious death of a small boy, children claiming a "hoodie crow" took him, wife beating, an escaped sailor who is not a sailor, prejudice against tinkers, prejudice against a Polish man and Italian family living in the village, corruption in the construction industry, priest sexual abuse, misplaced loyalties, police ineptitude. Add a h ...more
Oct 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
1950s -the Highlands of Scotland is the setting. The characters are interesting and certainly products of their time. Women had almost no rights and were almost considered their husbands' property. The Church is oppressive, war prejudices running deep. The mystery is a well woven narrative, and the main characters' stories are compelling enough that you want to read the next book in the series.
Jul 25, 2017 rated it liked it
Pretty dark with difficult subject matter. The 50's were such a bleak period anyway. My beloved grandfather emigrated from Aberdeen so I'm always looking for books about the 'old country'.
Kris - My Novelesque Life
(The Highland Gazette: #1)
Written by A.D. Scott
2010, 416 pages
Genre: mystery, historical, fiction

Rating: ★★★

When trying to figure out if Low Road was part of a series (and if yes what number) I found that there were two names for the series. On A.D. Scott's website she calls the series The Highland Gazette mysteries after the newspaper publication where five of the main characters work. Most other book sites call this series Joanne Ross after one of the characters
Aug 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
It’s 1950 in the western Highlands of Scotland. Little Jamie Fraser has gone missing on his way home from school and Joanne Ross’s daughters, Annie and Wee Jean, were the last ones to see him alive: “We saw him,” she [Wee Jean:] explained, “me and Annie, we saw this great big black hoodie crow. He opens the door, all of a sudden like, an’ he spreads out his wings . . . and he picks up Jamie in his wings and takes him . . . .” When Jamie is later found dead in the canal and the coroner determines ...more
A Small Death in the Great Glen is one of those novels I wanted to like more than I did. It is easy to see what Ms. Scott was trying to accomplish. She was hoping to create a different type of detective novel, one that addresses some of the social issues of the time while solving a mystery. Unfortunately, with it being part murder mystery, part social commentary, part personal discovery, and part cultural exploration, there was too much occurring at the same time. Consequently, the book lost its ...more
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Pen name of Ann Deborah Nolan.

A. D. Scott was born in the Highlands of Scotland and educated at Inverness Royal Academy and the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. She has worked in theatre, in magazines, and as a knitwear designer and currently lives in Vietnam and north of Sydney, Australia.
More about A.D. Scott...

Other Books in the Series

Joanne Ross (6 books)
  • A Double Death on the Black Isle
  • Beneath the Abbey Wall
  • North Sea Requiem
  • The Low Road: A Novel
  • A Kind of Grief