A Cold Highland Wind
reviewed by Warner Holme
Tasha Alexander’s A Cold Highland Wind is the latest in her Lady Emily Mystery series. This time, dealing, as the name implies, with a death in Scotland, the book stretches back in time to detail a variety of complications that keep two plotlines moving steadily forward.
This volume darts back and forth between the early 20th century and the late 17th, detailing both eras in a fairly honest fashion. The one closer to the present has Emily and her family visiting relations and old friends in Scotland, only to encounter the strange death of a prodigal of sorts to the town. Meanwhile, in the past, a dark-skinned woman who is a practicing Muslim finds herself enslaved, with legal freedom producing only a small number of additional options in life.
A perhaps too perfect image is given of Tunisia and Islam at the time; however, the particular point of view these come from do a lot to justify it. This is particularly the case since the woman in question, called Tansy by some but more properly named Tasnim, finds herself in the strange position of trying to form a companionship with a woman who previously owned her. While not a perfect example of depicting slavery, the difficulty of such is why this book and its handling are appreciated. The subtle side of the culture is that it perpetuates slavery; even the one that disapproves of such matters can thoughtfully continue suffering without such intent.
As the new past plotline for this volume, Tasnim works quite well. She is practical, determined, and bitter. This last aspect never takes over the entirety of her attitudes, instead seeming to serve as a sort of background trait which is acknowledged consistently without ever reaching the point it puts off readers. Her situation, already mentioned, helps a great deal with that.
As with many of the author’s works, there is a delightful section dealing with the sources of the book. Some of these are permutations of considerably older works, but most show that the author keeps up her studies of the history of a region. Particularly nice to see are the works of Imtiaz H. Habib and Miranda Kaufmann, both of which deal with people of color in the region at a time when some would like to believe they didn’t exist.
Like most volumes of the series, one can drop in and read easily without experience in the previous cases Lady Emily investigated. Of the developments throughout the series which make a difference, the biggest of them would be the lead having noticeable experience as an investigator by this time. As a result, that feels more like a status quo, rather than a missed step in the series overall, should a reader not have experienced that.
A good entry in the series for fans of Lady Emily or Tasha Alexander, it continues a number of the delightful trends for the series. Multiple points of view, interview-based investigation, and a care for the situations of those often forgotten or oppressed are major elements of the story.
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