cover image Skinner's Festival

Skinner's Festival

Quintin Jardine. St. Martin's Press, $21.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-312-11892-1

As followers of the arts gather in Scotland's capital city at the end of the summer, so too does a well-organized gang of militant zealots intent on home rule. A bomb explodes in a tent near a shopping center; then an opera singer is murdered. In charge of the case is ranking copper, Robert Skinner, who was introduced in Skinner's Rules and remains a tough and resourceful Scot. While steadily ratcheting up the tension, Jardine provides a lot of annual Edinburgh Festival detail-the sites and the sounds, plays and performances, all of which have to be guarded more closely as the body count grows. Skinner's daughter falls for a mystery man, and his deputy falls for a mystery woman, even as the first clue to the terrorists' identity points to an American woman roaming the country, a killer in more ways than one. Although the identity of one murderer is ludicrously easy to spot, and the too-frequent sex scenes tend to feature such lines as ``he drank deeply from the well of her passion,'' Jardine offers spectacularly effective action scenes, and Skinner, while sometimes too hard-boiled to swallow, is an admirable hero. (Apr.)